Rekulak (The Impossible Fortress) uses horror as a lens to bring the dark underbelly of suburbia into focus in this gripping supernatural thriller. Narrator Mallory Quinn is a 21-year-old recovering addict getting a second chance as a live-in nanny to five-year-old Teddy Maxwell, a sweet-natured young artist whose wonderfully creepy pictures appear throughout the novel. His uncanny muse/model is his “imaginary friend,” Anya, whom his erudite, politically correct parents dismiss. Mallory takes Anya seriously, however, especially as Teddy’s art rapidly turns darker and impossibly sophisticated and Mallory learns of a long-ago murder in her guest house quarters. How is Anya manipulating Teddy? Could she be the murder victim? And why do Mallory’s concerns provoke such explosive emotion in Teddy’s parents? The plot unfolds at a good clip, and Mallory’s voice is engrossing, if occasionally too writerly for her working-class South Philly roots. There are no shocking twists here, but Rekulak isn’t looking to keep readers up at night; he’s holding a mirror up to white, affluent Gen X and asking pointed questions about class, trauma, and horror conventions. In that mode, he executes well and sticks the landing. (May)
From the Publisher
"It's almost enough to make a person believe in ghosts..." —Kirkus Reviews
"The explosive third act gives this story a nail-biting ending sure to thrill. Paranormal perfection." —Booklist
“Beautiful, terrifying, and surprisingly kind.”—CrimeReads
"I read Hidden Pictures and loved it. The language is straightforward, the surprises really surprise, and it has that hard-to-achieve propulsiveness that won't let you put it down. And the pictures are terrific!" —Stephen King
“Whip-smart, creepy as hell, and masterfully plotted, Hidden Pictures is the best new thriller novel I’ve read in years. Destined to be a classic of the genre.” —Ransom Riggs, bestselling author of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
“Hidden Pictures is one of those rare gems that’s aware of the rules of the genre even as it breaks them and invents new ones. It’s a gas to read, full of wonderful new ideas, both literary and visual. This is one of those books you leave out long after finishing, just so your friends might see it and give you the chance to share it! Jason Rekulak is going to be telling us all stories for a good long while.” —Scott Frank, Academy Award-nominated screenwriter and Emmy-winning director of The Queen’s Gambit
"For a few days, my life was completely hijacked by Jason Rekulak's Hidden Pictures, one of the best and most inventive ghost stories I've read in years. The damaged but still fighting Mallory Quinn stole my heart and her plunge into supernatural wonder gripped my imagination. It's a beautiful dark rush of a novel. I'm already excited to read it again." —Joe Hill
“Hidden Pictures isn’t a ghost story, it’s a scalpel that slices into our smug sense of self-satisfaction so deeply it hits bone. A perfect summer thriller complete with vengeful spirits, class warfare, and it even has pictures. What more could you want?” —Grady Hendrix, bestselling author of The Final Girl Support Group
In Rekulak's (The Impossible Fortress) sophomore novel, Mallory becomes the nanny to Teddy, a Philadelphia-area five-year-old possessed by a spirit that expresses itself by drawing pictures of its murder. Mallory focuses her narration on the inanities of the mother's passive-aggressive nature or the blandness of the family's furniture or descriptions of the neighborhood bookstore. But when the boy's wealthy parents refuse to believe that a ghost could be possessing their son, Mallory attempts to communicate with an entity she blithely assumes to be benign. Unfortunately, complications like a cute neighbor and awkward advances from the boy's father keep Mallory from fully exploring the supernatural puzzle, let alone her wasted athletic career or struggles with addiction. While Mallory eventually explores her own tragic backstory, it fills a gap more than it drives her character. VERDICT This work offers plenty of commentary about the superficiality and priorities of upper middle-class America, but a more focused novel would have been more compelling.—Aaron Heil
A disturbing household secret has far-reaching consequences in this dark, unusual ghost story.
Mallory Quinn, fresh out of rehab and recovering from a recent tragedy, has taken a job as a nanny for an affluent couple living in the upscale suburb of Spring Brook, New Jersey, when a series of strange events start to make her (and her employers) question her own sanity. Teddy, the precocious and shy 5-year-old boy she's charged with watching, seems to be haunted by a ghost who channels his body to draw pictures that are far too complex and well formed for such a young child. At first, these drawings are rather typical: rabbits, hot air balloons, trees. But then the illustrations take a dark turn, showcasing the details of a gruesome murder; the inclusion of the drawings, which start out as stick figures and grow increasingly more disturbing and sophisticated, brings the reader right into the story. With the help of an attractive young gardener and a psychic neighbor and using only the drawings as clues, Mallory must solve the mystery of the house's grizzly past before it's too late. Rekulak does a great job with character development: Mallory, who narrates in the first person, has an engaging voice; the Maxwells' slightly overbearing parenting style and passive-aggressive quips feel very familiar; and Teddy is so three-dimensional that he sometimes feels like a real child.
It's almost enough to make a person believe in ghosts.