Hidden Pictures by Jason Rekulak is a fast-paced thriller; the story of Mallory, a recovering opioid addict, who is hired as a babysitter for a pre-kindergarten boy, Teddy, the son of Caroline, a psychiatrist and Ted, an IT entrepreneur in Philadelphia.
Mallory’s new job is perfect, just what she needs to cement her recovery. Her new situation gives her a safe and comfortable place to live well away from the risks of her old life. It also gives her a purpose. And soon her new job introduces her to Adrian, the handsome son of a landscape gardening company owner.
Mallory finds Caroline and Ted’s parenting ideas a little over the top, but then they are professionals, wealthy and successful and so it seems right that they also have high expectations for their son and for his nanny. Mallory adores young Teddy and they quickly develop a close relationship. Teddy proves to be a creative and imaginative player and a gifted artist, but soon his pictures take on a sinister and disturbing tone. Mallory is concerned when she overhears Teddy talking to Anya, his imaginary friend, but Caroline says it’s normal, and Carline is a psychiatrist so she should know about such things, right? Initially Mallory hides the disturbing pictures from Caroline and Ted but when the secret is revealed, Mallory shares her suspicions – that a demon of some sort is controlling Teddy, trying to communicate through him. Caroline and Ted are angry that Mallory would think such foolishness, but Adrian believes her.
As Mallory’s concerns become more intense, Caroline becomes concerned that Mallory may have relapsed and be using drugs again. One afternoon Mallory falls asleep and wakes to find she has scrawled drawings all over the kitchen walls. Caroline is furious that little Teddy was left unsupervised and she dismisses Mallory.
The pace of Mallory’s investigations increases as her time with Teddy runs out. And because this is a suspense, and because the ending is high-pitched and thrilling, with a delightful twist included, I’ll stop describing the plot.
The writing style is crisp making the book easy to read at the pace a thriller should be read at. The characters are superbly crafted, so that all are viable suspects. This is not a murder-mystery per se, but one always has the feeling that the reader is expected to solve the situation and so predict the ending. The characters’ interactions feel genuine. This plot is so well constructed it could surely be real, which adds a delightful layer of intrigue. The tension rises steeply as the plot unravels. I appreciated the last few pages that wrapped the story up without it feeling contrived or ‘Hallmarky’.