Source: Review copy
Publication: 5 May 2022 from Penguin Viking
My thanks to Penguin and Ellie Hudson for an advance copy for review
FOUR FRIENDS. ONE MURDER. A GAME THEY CAN’T ESCAPE
‘It was only a game’… Until a boy went missing.
‘No one was meant to get hurt’… But a body has been found.
‘Just some innocent fun’… Except one of them is a killer.
Ready or not, here I come.
It’s time to play hide and seek again.
There must be something in the air…public schools are coming in for something of a literary hammering just now. I think authors are channelling their thoughts about the behaviour of some of our politicians into their work…
Be that as it may, Simon Lelic has a public school at the centre of his latest novel, The Hiding Place.
Told in a dual timeline format it is the story of Ben Draper who went missing from his elite boarding school 22 years ago while playing hide and seek. Now a body has been discovered in a crypt on the school grounds. DI Rob Fleet and his colleague Nicky Collins are in charge of cold cases – a punishment for Fleet who is out of favour with his boss. So they take the lead on this case before the boss catches on that one of the key persons of interest is Ben’s old school friend, Callum Richardson, now a politician challenging the government with some success and riding high with an impressive media profile.
The narrative to The Hiding Place moves between the police investigation and the events of 22 years ago, as told from Ben’s perspective. An outsider with no friends, Ben was an unhappy child with no friends and so when three older children, Callum, Lance and Melissa take him under their wing he is grateful to them for including him in their activities.
Lelic describes the school vividly and the toxic, bullying nature of the school’s culture really stands out. Many of the school’s characters are wholly unlikable and Ben’s situation is sad and depressing.
Although you do get some sense of Rob Fleet and his domestic situation, it’s a bit of a slow drip feed and not quite enough to lift the sense that everyone else in this book is really rather awful and so it’s just as well that Fleet is a relentless pursuer of the truth.
The pace quickens towards the end as the tension builds and it is clear that events of 22 years ago are now driving a killer’s agenda and more deaths are discovered as well as lives put in danger.
Lelic builds in some nice deceptions and a couple of great twists which makes this murder mystery zing a little more. He also has some nice one-liners to lift the tension when it all becomes a bit intense.
Verdict: All round a well-crafted police procedural with some intriguing characters and good plotting.
Simon Lelic is the author of seven highly acclaimed thrillers: Rupture (winner of a Betty Trask Award and shortlisted for the John Creasey Debut Dagger), The Facility, The Child Who (longlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger and the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger), The House, The Liar’s Room, The Search Party and The Hiding Place. He has also written The Haven series for younger readers, twice shortlisted for the CrimeFest awards.