The suspect is known as the Coastline Killer – a serial murderer who chooses his victims at random from a stretch of the rugged northern California coast. Bill Pronzini’s The Hidden begins with a depiction of four murders, each narrated from the killer’s perspective. The story then shifts abruptly to a couple driving along “a treacherous cliffside section of Highway 1” en route to a winter getaway (13). The reader knows that these two plotlines will converge and eagerly awaits the results. As the subtitle indicates, this is indeed “a novel of suspense.”
At this time of year, I traditionally discuss a Christmas mystery (see my blogs on Hercule Poirot’s Christmas, A Christmas Secret, Visions of Sugar Plums, and Jerusalem Inn). The Hidden takes place in the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day as Jay and Shelby Macklin drive to an isolated cottage for a holiday that turns horribly wrong. This is a novel of violent snowstorms, power blackouts, and a haunting seaside setting – in fact, the perfect book for a winter night.
Bill Pronzini, best known for his Nameless Series (see my blog on http://mysterypageturners.blogspot.ca/2012/11/bill-pronzinis-schemers.html), is an impressive writer who has garnered two prestigious lifetime awards (The Grand Master for mystery novels and The Eye for private eye novels). He and his wife, Marcia Muller (see my blog on The Ever-Running Man), are one of the few couples to have both been honoured with these awards.
Pronzini, like Ellery Queene before him, has always been a tireless advocate of the genre. Daniel J. Hale, Executive Vice President of Mystery Writers of America, points out that “Bill Pronzini is not only a passionate author and reader of crime fiction – he is also one of the most ardent proponents of the genre. . . For forty years he has distinguished himself with consistently high-quality writing and editing in all areas of the field.”
The Hidden is not just a thriller, but a psychological thriller (see my blog on this subgenre). Pronzini probes beneath the surface of characters, providing readers with insight into both the ordinary and the extraordinary mind. As Gaughan (2010, 50) observes, “Pronzini has written 70-plus novels, and The Hidden demonstrates that he’s aging like fine wine. Jay, Shelby, and even the Coastline Killer are complex and engaging characters.” All of them have something to hide, even from their conscious selves.
Pronzini’s novel is the perfect choice for those who enjoy a psychological thriller with a brooding sense of menace.
Gaughan, Thomas. “The Hidden.” Booklist 107, no. 1 (2010): 50.
Pronzini, Bill. The Hidden: A Novel of Suspense. New York: Walker, 2010.