Book Review: Hidden Bodies

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.

Book Review: You

You by KepnesTwo things:

1. This is a psychological thriller, emphasis on the psycho.

2. It is vulgar.

Now that I’ve made those things clear, perhaps you will know whether or not this book is for you.

The entire story is in first and second person. When narrator Joe Goldberg says, “You,” he means Guinevere Beck, the young writer he’s stalking. He works in a small book shop in New York City and one day Beck, as she prefers to be called, walks in. Immediately, he is rapt, and thus begins a long, twisted story of how he follows her, studies her, and eventually connects himself to her.

Joe is a disaster, as his thought processes prove. We are in Joe’s brain, we are alongside his behavior, we watch a scary story unfold. Initially, we want to warn Beck, but then… we don’t.

Here’s what I love about this book. First, it’s entirely fresh. It’s new and different and unlike anything I’ve read. Second, Kepnes’ character development was near flawless. Each person was uniquely individual. (This is a skill I long to develop.) Third, I didn’t know how it would end. My suspicions were confirmed, but I wasn’t confident. I wasn’t sure. That’s a wonderful feeling when reading a thriller. You want to live in the tension of not knowing. 

I don’t usually post pull quotes from books, but here I think it’s help to know how the narrative flows. This is the last paragraph of the first chapter, the first interaction between Joe and Beck:

“You didn’t walk in here for books, Beck. You didn’t have to say my name. You didn’t have to smile or listen or take me in. But you did. Your signature is on the receipt. This wasn’t a cash transaction and it wasn’t a coded debit. This was real. I press my thumb into the wet ink on your receipt and the ink of Guinevere Beck stains my skin.”

Buy You here.