First, an English lesson: Deus ex Machina (“god from the machine”) is a literary device often used when the writer has “painted herself into a corner.” In other words, when there is no way out, a sudden and very convenient way out materializes.
It’s frustrating for the reader who enjoys a well-devised plot.
Now onto Hidden Bodies. This is at follow-up to You, a book I read last year and loved immensely. Hidden Bodies follows Joe Goldberg’s pursuit of Amy Adam, a girl who we originally believed to be a good match for Joe until she rips him off and leaves town. For Joe, this is enraging. It’s an affront unlike any other, one he must avenge.
Joe is messed up, truly and wholly. He’s obsessive, manic, destructive. Just like he killed people in You, he will kill people in Hidden Bodies. This is not a spoiler.
My problem with the story is that every next step is predictable and convenient. So convenient. When Joe realizes Amy has run off to Los Angeles, he conveniently follows her there and happens to land in the precise neighborhood where she’s gone grocery shopping. When he makes friends, they conveniently have connections and money. It’s just all too… neat.
This isn’t to say that Hidden Bodies wasn’t enjoyable or that it wasn’t nice to see Joe again. That’s all true. Joe is one-of-a-kind. I’ve never met anyone like him in fiction. However, this book lacks the punch that You did. There’s less of a thrill because you already know the puzzle pieces will fit together at the end.
If you read You and loved it, go ahead with Hidden Bodies. There’s no loss there. But go into knowing that Joe is incredibly lucky. I mean, a killer could only hope for so many breaks.