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The Hidden by Kathryn Mackel

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The Hidden by Kathryn Mackel

Reviewed by Kevin Lucia

"An enjoyable read that 'gallops' ahead at a breathtaking pace."

Psychiatrist Susan Stone lives in her own private little hell; a cold, lonely place carved out of pain, regret, and a hardening sense of failure. Mistreated by a hard, uncaring mother; her husband Paul stolen from her too early in their marriage by a tumor, and her son Christopher leaving life the way no one should – out an apartment window in Boston – has left her empty and distant. For Susan life is a hard, empty place, devoid of comfort. The only thing anyone can depend upon is oneself; certainly not family, and definitely not God.

However, her father’s riding accident sends her rushing out to the family farm in Colorado (once prime Arabian horse breeding grounds) sets into motion a chain of events forcing Susan to confront the worst things about herself that she’s hidden deep within: The pain of abuse at the hands of her mother. The aching hole in her heart from her son’s suicide. The bitter feelings of loss and failure.

All of these things churn about inside as Stone becomes embroiled in something much larger than herself, something that tests the measure of what she is, challenges what she’s become, and pushes her to see what she could be.

After her badly mishandled delivery of a foal on her father’s farm, Susan flees wildly into the mountains to escape her pain, perhaps permanently . . . much the way her mother did so many years ago. What she encounters there opens the door to a mystery that will either set her free from her fears and the burden of her guilt, or plunge them all into a horror not known for ages.

Hidden deep in a cave, chained to the wall in ancient, iron manacles is a young man whom they come to know only as Jacob. In perfect health, with the wide-eyed innocence of a youth, Jacob has no recollection of who he is, or whence he came. Apparently he can work minor miracles, cause electronic medical devices to go haywire, and may or may not be connected to the evil stalking them all.

For there is a murderer on the loose, leaving charred, barely recognizable bodies as his calling card. Somehow Jacob is tied to the murderer and the deaths, and Susan must unravel the mystery before it is too late, while facing her fiercest inner demons, all the while fearing the truth of the novel’s tag line: Some things are best left hidden.

Kathryn Mackel’s novel of spiritual warfare is a gripping read written in the visceral, vivid style one would expect from a member of the screenwriting team that created Left Behind: The Movie and the film adaptation of Frank Peretti’s Hangman’s Curse. Her prose is stylish and direct; while reading you get the feel of something that would translate very well to the big screen.

The Hidden provides well laid plot twists held “close to the chest” until the end, and the villain pops up far from where he’s expected. Other reviewers have criticized the villain as being “typecast” and “clichéd”, but I found him to be fiendishly delightful; the perfect foil to the innocent, amnesia-struck Jacob. In fact, the novel would have been served well with more detailed appearances of this elusive bad guy.

Also touching and heart-rending is Mackel's portrayal of the past relationship between Susan and her mother, and anyone who has had less than pleasant relations with their parents will be moved by these parts of the narrative. The pain Susan harbors from her childhood is fresh and gripping, real and tangible, and I'm sure very relevant to many.

Mackel also deals with the relationship between the things we hide in our hearts and the nature of spiritual warfare. She weaves spiritual truth into a moving story; creating a tale that is all at once imaginative, edifying, and thought-provoking concerning our own lives.

The only negative comment would be about the crafting of town Sheriff Rick Sanchez. The past relationship between Stone and Sanchez seemed to have potential as Stone comes home from Boston, but both characters become opposed throughout the course of the novel concerning what should be done legally about Jacob and his guardianship.

Also, I became interested early on in Sanchez’s past: military experience, a failed marriage and children, and the biting regret he feels over both – especially as a born again Christian. However, as the pace of the novel picks up, this is not touched upon much. Overall, The Hidden is an enjoyable read that “gallops” ahead at a breathtaking pace.

Kevin LuciaKevin Lucia Kevin Lucia writes for The Press & Sun Bulletin and The Relief Journal. His short fiction has appeared in Coach’s Midnight Diner, The Relief Journal, All Hallows, Darkened Horizons Vol. 3 & 4, NexGen Pulp Magazine Issues 1 & 4, From the Shadows, Morpheus Tales Magazine, Bohemian-Alien, Shroud Publishing’s horror anthology, Abominations, and Tyndale House’s inspirational anthology Life Savors. He’s currently writing a novella for Shroud Publishing’s upcoming novella series, The Hiram Grange Chronicles. He resides in Castle Creek, New York, with his wife Abby, daughter Madison and son Zackary. He teaches high school English at Seton Catholic Central High School in Binghamton, New York; and is finishing his Masters of Arts in Creative Writing at Binghamton University. Visit him at his website and Myspace page.