Tuesday, October 02, 2012

The Hiding Place - David Bell

The Hiding Place
David Bell

Crime Fiction
Twenty-five years ago, Janet’s parents sent her to the park with her little brother, Justin.  It was a big event in her life, since, at age seven, this was the first time she’d been given the responsibility of looking after herself and her brother.  It was a public park in a small Midwestern town; most of the parents and children knew each other.  It seemed safe enough.  But only Janet returned home.  Justin was missing.
The police searched the park and its surroundings.  They questioned every child and adult in the park.  Still, it was months before the child’s skeletonized body was discovered.  A local man, seen playing with Justin in the park that day, was arrested and sent to prison.    The event changed everything about Janet’s young life.  Her mother died not long afterwards – of grief, everyone said.  Her father remained a stoic and distant presence.  Janet had a child of her own before completing high school.  That child, Ashleigh, now fifteen, also feels the weight of past events in her life.
One night, a man appears at Janet’s door.  He says he knows the truth about what happened to Justin.  He begs Janet not to call the police, so, against her better judgment, she doesn’t.  One of the original investigators on the case, Detective Stynes, warns Janet that the articles marking the twenty-fifth anniversary of Justin’s death will bring out all kinds of people with all kinds of motives. He’s surprised to find that even he has questions about what happened.
What does anyone really remember about a specific day at age seven?  By the time this story begins, Janet isn’t quite sure if she really remembers events, or if she’s simply heard and read about them so often that they seem like memories.  Details are fuzzy; conversations are forgotten or remembered out of chronological order.  It is not at all difficult to understand why Janet allows the man on her porch to lead her on by dangling hope in front of her. 
The author (who also wrote the fine CEMETERY GIRL) excels at exploring human emotions.  A lot of them are not particularly nice, but they’re real.  Janet is absolutely realistic.  Her relationships with her father and daughter are complex and true.  Truth is what’s really at stake here.  Some of the characters believe that it’s best to leave the past where it belongs and look to the present and the future.  Others believe that basing life on a lie makes life meaningless.  When does it become easier to live with a simple lie than to uncover an ugly and potentially destructive truth? 

Rating:8 ½
October 2012
ISBN# 978-0-451-23796-5 (trade paperback)


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