Book Review: Hidden by Emma Kavanagh

“The next novel from the author of Falling, a gripping psychological thriller by a former police psychologist. Perfect for fans of Nicci French, Tana French and S. J. Watson

A gunman is stalking the wards of a local hospital. He's unidentified and dangerous, and has to be located. Urgently. 

Police Firearms Officer Aden McCarthy is tasked with tracking him down. Still troubled by the shooting of a schoolboy, Aden is determined to make amends by finding the gunman - before it's too late.

To psychologist Imogen, hospital should be a place of healing and safety - both for her, and her young niece who's been recently admitted. She's heard about the gunman, but he has little to do with her. Or has he?

As time ticks down, no one knows who the gunman's next target will be. But he's there. Hiding in plain sight. Far closer than anyone thinks...”

“He’s Watching” – but where is he watching from?

“She’s Waiting” – but what is she waiting for?

When I first started reading this novel, I wasn’t sure if I was going to be comfortable with the subject matter - we’ve all heard the terribly frequent news of a gunman going on the rampage, opening fire in schools, tourist hotspots or shopping venues, killing innocent people who leave their loved ones behind to deal with the aftermath – it’s not pretty news, made all the more worse by the media and their sensationalist tactics.

But hell, I do sometimes enjoy being placed out of my comfort zone (that's why I read psychological suspense) and it soon became apparent that Emma Kavanagh is a skilled writer who has written an intelligent and complexly plotted novel by taking a ripped from the headlines subject and making it personal – very personal!

The book opens with a horrific scene in a hospital where a lone gunman has just released a hail of bullets – bodies are strewn everywhere and those that are still alive have become caught up in the resulting pandemonium while a woman tries to assist a policeman who has fallen. And so it is that Ms Kavanagh starts her novel - at the end.

In the midst of a Welsh heatwave and, seguing into the six days before the shooting, we are slowly introduced to the three main protagonists who will lead the way in offering clues as to how this could have happened - Aden McCarthy, a policeman with the Firearms Unit whose life has been shaken up by one tragic event in which he didn’t pull the trigger fast enough and who has now been tasked with trying to track down a gunman prowling the hospital premises; Charlie, a reporter covering the story about the anonymous gunman as well as a young nurse who appears to have been knocked over on the highway; and Imogen, a hospital-based psychologist who finds herself dealing with not only a personal issue, that of her niece being admitted to hospital, but also in counselling the father of a young boy who lays in a hospital bed and the three Firearms Unit’s policemen involved in that shooting.

She also gives us the perspective of our antagonist, cleverly withholding his identity which makes the constant close proximity to the victims all the more menacing as it casts suspicion and doubt on all those close to the characters.

There’s definitely more at play here than just the hunt for the shooter though and we slowly begin to get a sense of her characters by giving us a great mix of their personal lives and how they are all connected to one another, while her realistic secondary characters add to the suspense as she shifts between the different perspectives and interactions, leaving plenty of red herrings in their wake.

Offering us an intense focus on the events leading up to the day of the shooting, we quickly make our way through to the end in an attempt to discover "the who" - “the why” is given to us from the Shooter's perspective and, for me, it quickly became about the psychology of the crime when he thinks back on his early life and how this has shaped him emotionally and I found myself (shockingly) empathising with him.

Along with her writing style, which places the reader in the thick of things, the short sharp sentences and chapter count-down kept the pace constant and the pages turning as I sensed the danger lurking in the pages that lay ahead.

This is an absorbing reading with intriguing characters that the reader will come to care about so, if you enjoy psychological thrillers that provide you with not only that growing sense of impending doom but characters on the brink of love and loss, life and death, despair and hope, then I suggest you pick this one up.

While the suspense element will keep you riveted, other elements of the story take a look at how a family is coping (or not) with the injuries suffered by their teenage son, the secrets that sisters keep from (and for) one another all the while suggesting that evil may not be as recognisable as we think. Perhaps it lurks in dark corners – perhaps it sleeps right next to you!

I wish to thank Random House UK (Cornerstone Publishing) for providing me with an eGalley proof of this novel.

About the Author

Emma Kavanagh was born in Wales in 1978.

She trained as a psychologist and after graduating with a PhD in Psychology from Cardiff University, started her own business as a psychology consultant, specialising in human performance in extreme situations.

For seven years she provided training and consultation for firearms officers and command staff in the police forces and NATO and military personnel throughout the UK and Europe.

Her first novel, Fallen, was published in March 2014.

Emma currently lives in South Wales with her husband and their young sons.


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