Kept in the Dark: A Novel

( 7 )

Overview

At the house next door, respectability can hide all manner of sins

Fans of Tampa by Alissa Nutting and New York Times bestsellers Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, Room by Emma Donoghue, and The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison will love Penny Hancock’s chilling debut thriller about a woman on the edge. When her neighbor’s fifteen-year-old nephew goes missing, Sonia is the last person that anyone would suspect. At forty-three, she is a strikingly attractive wife and mother. And like the...

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Overview

At the house next door, respectability can hide all manner of sins

Fans of Tampa by Alissa Nutting and New York Times bestsellers Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, Room by Emma Donoghue, and The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison will love Penny Hancock’s chilling debut thriller about a woman on the edge. When her neighbor’s fifteen-year-old nephew goes missing, Sonia is the last person that anyone would suspect. At forty-three, she is a strikingly attractive wife and mother. And like the River House, her lovely home overlooking the Thames, Sonia’s life is a picture of perfection and normalcy—until she meets Jez. From the moment he shows up on Sonia’s doorstep, the gorgeous teenage boy awakens a torrent of memories that threaten to reveal a terrifying truth. Drawn to Jez by a compulsion that she scarcely understands, Sonia takes him captive—prepared to sacrifice everything to keep him.

 

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In British author Hancock’s stunning debut, a psychological thriller set over less than a week, a respectable married woman kidnaps a 15-year-old boy and holds him captive in her historic Thames-side London house. When Jez Mahfoud, a friend’s nephew, comes to borrow her husband’s rare Tim Buckley record album, memories of an intense teenage relationship with a boy named Seb overwhelm Sonia, a voice teacher. She drugs the innocent Jez and locks him in a soundproof room. As the search for the missing Jez intensifies, so does Sonia’s compulsion to keep him hidden, especially during a visit from her family. The disturbed narrator persuades herself that this drugged boy, often bound with duct tape, is a willing participant. Despite Sonia’s twisted actions and her sensual feelings about Jez, Hancock is careful to show that she’s not a sexual predator. Descriptions of the putrid waters of the Thames add to the gothic atmosphere. Agent: Jane Gregory, Gregory and Company. (Sept.)
The Daily Mail (UK)

“An impressive debut from a writer we’re certain to hear more about…There are hints of a young Daphne du Maurier in Hancock’s cool, evocative prose as she reveals the terrifying extent of Sonia’s obsession…Beautifully worked and with a sharp eye for the menace in the commonplace, it lingers in the memory like a Schubert melody, and casts a distinctive spell.”

The Guardian (UK)

“This creepy, well-written debut is reminiscent of John Fowles’s The Collector…with Sonia, Hancock pulls off the considerable feat of “writing mad”.”

The Sun (UK)

Pick of the Shelves 2012

Kirkus Reviews
A middle-aged woman imprisons a teenage boy in Hancock's spooky debut. When daughter Kit departs for University, Sonia expects empty nest syndrome, but not intrusive memories of her adolescent encounters with a charismatic, seemingly homeless boy named Seb. Sonia is being nagged by her absentee neurologist husband, Greg, and her aging mother, to sell her beloved childhood and current residence, River House, overlooking a seedy stretch of the Thames in London. In short, conditions are ripe for a meltdown, and when golden boy Jez, her best friend Helen's 15-year-old nephew, comes over to borrow a vintage vinyl album, Sonia gets him drunk on the wine she was saving for her daughter's 21st birthday (the novel is rich in such choice details) and, almost on a whim, locks him in the River House music room. The point of view alternates between Sonia's first-person voice and Helen's third-person narration, as Jez's disappearance is chronicled day by day. Unlike a more seasoned sociopath, who might target a victim no one will miss, Sonia has selected the son of Helen's sister, Maria, a helicopter mother. Arriving from Paris, Maria blames Helen for not keeping any closer tabs on houseguest Jez (in London to interview for admission to music schools) than she does on her own teenage sons. Helen is frantic to keep the police from learning that, on the day Jez disappeared, she was in a pub nursing a hangover rather than at work, and she's also increasingly distressed at the enthusiasm with which husband Mick is consoling his anguished sister-in-law. Hancock gradually unveils the sinister parallels between Sonia's tortured infatuation with Seb and her obsession with Jez and creates enough sympathy for both Helen and Sonia that, despite the fact that one is a criminal and the other is criminally negligent, we root for both. Unfortunately the secret at the novel's core is one the first-person narrator could have revealed all along, but doesn't, making the ending seem contrived.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780452298330
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 8/28/2012
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 810,378
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 7 )
Rating Distribution

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(2)

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(2)

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(3)

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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 28, 2012

    This is a super-creepy and atmospheric book that takes places on

    This is a super-creepy and atmospheric book that takes places on the
    Thames outside London. The main woman in the story reminded me of Amy
    in Gone Girl, that is, she is a psycho, but what she does makes sense
    and she gets away with things. It's very disturbing at times on many
    levels. Very well written, original and still resonates with me.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 10, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    3.5/5 Kept in the Dark is British author Penny Hancock's debut

    3.5/5

    Kept in the Dark is British author Penny Hancock's debut novel.

    Forty something Sonia lives in a beautiful home on the Thames River in England. She is being pressured by her family to sell the house now that her children are grown, but she is quite resistant to this idea. Their constant pressure seems to have widened a crack in Sonia's psyche.

    Fifteen year old Jez comes to the door of River House to take up an offer from Sonia's husband to borrow some music. He's not home, but Sonia invites him in anyway......and decides that he won't be leaving. He is a beautiful boy and she decides she will be the one to protect him and keep him safe. So she drugs him and locks him in the music room.....

    All of this happens within the first few chapters of the book. So, we know the crime early on. The question is will Jez escape? And why is Sonia doing this? We get little glimpses into her past as the book progresses, revealing more and more of a relationship that was distinctly unhealthy.

    What drove this book for me was Sonia's rationalizations and thought processes. Hancock has written wonderful dialogue for Sonia. She is able to completely twist the situation around in her mind - she is truly only doing her best to help this poor boy - completely obliterating the fact that she is the one putting him in danger. She can't understand why Jez is not more grateful. The crime Sonia has committed is horrifying, but is Sonia herself who is gave me that creepy, unsettled feeling in my stomach as I read. There is a twist at the end, that I did suspect was coming a few chapters before.

    Hancock employs a first person narration style for Kept in the Dark. It's unusual as the entire book is told from the criminal's point of view and we never really get to know the victim at all. We know Jez wants to escape, but only from what Sonia tells us. Readers looking for an action packed book won't find it here. Instead the book moves at a slower pace as Hancock deliberately and deliciously builds the story bit by bit.

    Hancock has penned an interesting debut. I would pick up another book by this author - her next is scheduled for the first half of 20

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2012

    Good book

    Interesting book, quick read. Liked how things were revealed in the book through flashback memories, but was disappointed in the last chapter of the book. Just felt like the author could have added more.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 23, 2012

    *This is an advanced readers copy* librarything giveaway 4 Stars

    *This is an advanced readers copy* librarything giveaway
    4 Stars
    When fifteen year old Jez goes missing family relationships that were already crumbling reach their limits obscuring realities about the disappearance. The family’s neighbor and friend Sonia, who can’t let go of her past lost love, is looking to fill an emptiness that has deepened since her daughter has gone off to college. Jez could be the answer to Sonia’s problem and her way to never have to let go of all that she has lost and all that is trying to be taken from her.
    First of all, I almost didn’t enter this giveaway because of the description but I am glad that I did. Are parts of this hard to read? Absolutely! There were times when I didn’t think I could possibly go on and would take a step back for a couple of days. If you can get around some of the actions of Sonia (it is hard to do) the plot is actually multifaceted and riveting. That said, there is only one likeable character and that is Jez, but unfortunately the only perspective given of him is through the other characters so that is why this didn’t get five stars from me.
    Reality slaps the face with this sort of book. Even though it is a work of fiction stuff like this is happening in our real world and I always appreciate that. This author is very brave in putting these words on the page. I have seen some of the negative reaction but I applaud her because something like this happened somewhere yesterday, is happening right now, and will happen tomorrow.
    Yes, I recommend this one wholeheartedly!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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    Posted November 5, 2012

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 30, 2013

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 17, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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