Review: Hidden Pictures by Jason Rekulak

Title: Hidden Pictures
Author: Jason Rekulak
Publisher: Flatrion Books
Release Date: May 10th, 2022
Page Length: 373
Genre: Horror | Thriller
Age Range: Adult
Rating: 4.5⭐

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Goodreads Synopsis: From Jason Rekulak, Edgar-nominated author of The Impossible Fortress, comes a wildly inventive spin on the classic horror story in Hidden Pictures, a creepy and warm-hearted mystery about a woman working as a nanny for a young boy with strange and disturbing secrets.

Fresh out of rehab, Mallory Quinn takes a job in the affluent suburb of Spring Brook, New Jersey as a babysitter for Ted and Caroline Maxwell. She is to look after their five-year-old son, Teddy.

Mallory immediately loves this new job. She lives in the Maxwell’s pool house, goes out for nightly runs, and has the stability she craves. And she sincerely bonds with Teddy, a sweet, shy boy who is never without his sketchbook and pencil. His drawings are the usual fare: trees, rabbits, balloons. But one day, he draws something different: a man in a forest, dragging a woman’s lifeless body.

As the days pass, Teddy’s artwork becomes more and more sinister, and his stick figures steadily evolve into more detailed, complex, and lifelike sketches well beyond the ability of any five-year-old. Mallory begins to suspect these are glimpses of an unsolved murder from long ago, perhaps relayed by a supernatural force lingering in the forest behind the Maxwell’s house.

With help from a handsome landscaper and an eccentric neighbor, Mallory sets out to decipher the images and save Teddy—while coming to terms with a tragedy in her own past—before it’s too late.

Thoughts

I think this is one of my favourite thriller/horrors of the year! The audiobook added a nice spooky, tense atmosphere that had me wanting to know more. I binged this in one or two sittings and was disappointed with every life interruption because I had to know!

The main character, Mallory, was strong and more willing than I would ever have to stay when things get crazy! What I loved about Mallory was her openness to the idea of spirits and ghosts. It never felt like she was a skeptic towards that idea. I feel like I was suppose to find her as an unreliable character, but I felt like I related to (outside of the very heavy drug use and addiction) or at the very least felt a strong connection to her. The child that Mallory is hired to look after is one creepy kid. Teddy doesn’t come across like the creepy kids from Village of the Damned, but there were still moments where I found he gave me the general feeling of unease. The other side characters were really interesting too and you always felt like you couldn’t trust them or that they were holding something back.

Photo taken showing two drawings from within Hidden Pictures by Jason Rekulak: one depicting a detailed forest (left) the other depicting many variations of bunnies (right).
Two drawings from in Hidden Pictures by Jason Rekulak: one depicting a detailed forest (left) the other depicting many variations of bunnies (right).

I loved the inclusion of the artwork! It really added to the overall unease and creepy feel of the book. As the images change, it really helped drive home the other things we learn in the book. I really want to find more horrors/thrillers with this aspect – there have to be more mixed media horrors, specifically creepy drawings in them. Whoever did the art work is amazingly talented – I wouldn’t be surprised if a variety of artists were used because of the variety of styles shown in here.

I’ve never read from Jason before, but the way he wrote this story was amazing! The only thing I’m not 100% on board with was the twist ending. Something about it just left me…. unhappy I guess. It just didn’t sit right. But that was only one aspect of the final reveal that I didn’t like – all the other twists and the main part of the final reveal were great! I haven’t read anything exactly like this, but it definitely had the same feeling as Turn the Key but overall is nothing like it.

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