Hidden Pictures, by Jason Rekulak is wildly popular in the book groups on Facebook right now. The waitlist in Libby was super long. Months. I wasn’t sure I’d get to borrow before the Cool Ghouls Book Club group read was over, but the library came through and here we are.
I’m not sure what I expected going into this, but it’s not what I got. It’s was really good, but usually the books I see hyped in Books of Horror are significantly more horrifying. This felt like horror-lite, horror for people who don’t necessarily want to be scared. Which is fine. I enjoyed the book, it just wasn’t what I expected.
This is the story of a recovering addict named Mallory who takes a job as babysitter to a young boy in an affluent neighborhood. She loves everything about the job, the little boy, the parents, her cottage in their back yard. Everything about this job is perfect, up until the little boy’s drawings take a dark turn. He goes from drawing happy images of the family and animals to darker things like a man in a forest dragging a woman behind him and dropping her in a hole in the ground. Not only does the subject of the drawings change, the skill level changes drastically as well. He was drawing stick figures and clouds with smiley faces and suddenly is drawing realistic fully shaded things that make Mallory suspect that something is amiss. She learns of the story of a woman who was murdered in the very cottage she is staying in and naturally assumes the place haunted or the boy is possessed. Mallory thinks she’s figured it out and goes on a quest to find proof to present to the parents, accompanied by her new friend, the gardener. The pair does find the information they were looking for, but it is not the solution they’d hoped for.
There are some things that I felt didn’t really add anything to the story, namely most of the things the neighbor lady says. She rants about liberal parents, rapist Mexicans, atheist know-it-alls, etc. all in her first conversation with Mallory. Is this meant to establish that she’s a bit of a kook like the Maxwells say? Is this the author inserting his own narrative under the guise of character building? Who knows. There’s also the juxtaposition of the main character’s religious beliefs and the Maxwells’ atheism. They are very quick to dismiss Mallory’s concerns and have her convinced that she’s losing it, despite things we learn about them toward the end of the book.
The plot is fairly predictable, even with the twists. But don’t let that dissuade you from reading this book. Even my paragraph of gripes isn’t a huge part of the story. As a know-it-all atheist liberal parent of rapist Mexican descent, I can safely say that while none of that adds much to the story, it doesn’t really detract from it either. I’ve seen some reviews say that certain parts were just not believable, like the one twist about the little boy. How would a babysitter not know, they say. To that, I say that this is a ghost story. Horror. Remember all those old horror movies where you see the teenage girl go outside in her underwear to investigate a scary sound and you’re screaming at the television for her to quit being an idiot? This called suspension of disbelief and is present in nearly every work of fiction, even moreso in horror with supernatural elements. Shit’s not gonna make sense in the real world and that’s okay. Sit back and enjoy the ride.
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ for me. Certainly not the scariest book, but it’s well written and engaging and has enough of a twist to not be completely predictable. I would recommend it to people looking to dip their toes into horror but not get too wet. And if you read a lot of darker books, this is a nice palate cleanser.
You can find Hidden Pictures, by Jason Rekulak at all major retailers and many libraries (though you might have to wait a bit).