by David Bell
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Sometimes it’s easier to believe a lie.Twenty-five-years ago, the disappearance of four-year-old Justin Manning rocked the small town of Dove Point, Ohio. After his body was found in a shallow grave in the woods two months later, the repercussions were felt for years.… Janet Manning has been haunted by the murder since the day she lost sight of her brother in the park. Now, with the twenty-fifth anniversary of Justin’s death looming, a detective and a newspaper reporter have started to ask questions, opening old wounds and raising new suspicions. Could the man convicted of the murder—who spent more than two decades in prison—really be innocent? Janet’s childhood friend and high school crush, who was in the park with her that day, has returned to Dove Point, where he is wrestling with his own conflicted memories of the events. And a strange man appears at Janet’s door in the middle of the night, claiming to know the truth. Soon, years of deceit will be swept away, and the truth about what happened to Janet’s brother will be revealed. And the answers that Janet has sought may be found much closer to home than she ever could have imagined.
I am in love with David Bell! Last year his novel Cemetery Girl blew me away and his new book The Hiding Place delivered a tale that was suspenseful, mysterious and delved into small town issues. David had my attention from the first sentence,“What do you remember from that day Janet?” and held me firmly till the last. He spun a tale with fleshed out characters that at times stole my breath away.
The tale begins around the twenty-fifth anniversary of the day four year old Justin Manning went missing while at the park with his seven year old sister Janet. Janet is now a single Mom who has moved back into her childhood home. She is helping her father who lost his job at the local factory. The newspaper is running a piece about the murder and conviction of Justin’s killer. The first article is about Dante Rogers, a black man from the wrong side of the tracks who was convicted and served his sentence for the murder of Justin. He is now living back in town and still claiming his innocence. A young, eager reporter begins to make Detective Stynes, the police officer involved and Janet question events that took place all those years ago. The tale that unfolded kept me enthralled as we pieced together that day in the park.
David Bell has an uncanny ability to create characters that blur the lines of fiction and become real. I connected with them all and felt like they could be neighbors. Janet has suffered from guilt, the loss of her mother and the stigma of being an unwed mother in a small town. She is incredibly tough and mourns what she has lost. Her Dad has shut down; refusing to rehash the past and his coldness hurts Janet. Ashleigh is Janet’s fifteen year old daughter, she is bright and inquisitive. She overhears a young man tell her mother he had answers about that day. When her mother doesn’t act, she takes it upon herself to find him. Kevin is Ashleigh friend and she likes him, but they both feel the town’s stares at this interracial friendship. Detective Stynes is single, fatherless and questions how he and his partner handled the investigation all those years ago. He was only a rookie, and despite concerns he deferred to his partner. I liked him and thought he was fair. Michael was Janet’s best friend back then, and she had a huge crush on him. He is troubled by memories and has returned to seek answers. Janet leans on Michael but he may not be able to give her the support she needs.
The world-building was splendid as Bell took us from past to present, revealing emotions, secrets and small town quirks. The tale was believable and I imagined it unraveling in small towns across the world. The story unfolded at a wonderful pace with peaks and valleys where I was able to catch my breath and absorb what had happened. With nothing more than a simple conversation between two characters he opened up thoughts, emotions and truths that kept me riveted. The monsters in this novel will surprise you and the tale will stay with you long after you close the book.
I highly recommend The Hiding Place to fans of suspenseful character driven mysteries. Bell brought the tale and the characters to life and I enjoyed every detail. You can see my review of Cemetery Girl here. I have added David Bell to my auto buy list and cannot wait for his next masterpiece.