Review by KEN KORCZAK
Meet Kate Bennett – she’s a train wreck.
She’s a swirling mass of neurotic self-doubt, self-questioning, self-loathing and inner confusion. She’s has problems with men, problems with her job, problems with her co-workers, problems with her past, problems with her country and society. She’s lonesome – she is a festering boil of dysfunctional angst – she occasionally gives into delicious, lusty sex which makes her hate herself – she seems an excellent candidate for a truck load of Valium and a future straight jacket.
Yet, her job is that of psychologist! That’s right! Kate Bennett, Ph.D, is a counselor charged with healing the maladjustments of her fellow man!
You have to admit, it makes for a great fictional premise. The blind leading the blind, as it were. Of course, most of us have always suspected this is the case anyway in real life – that no one is more screwed up than a psychiatrist or psychologist.
Anyway, that’s the best thing about this book, HIDDEN, by Irish writer DERICK PARSONS. All fiction is based on character and I give the author and A+ for creating the beautiful Kate Bennett, a walking contradiction. I did mention she is drop-dead gorgeous and a sizzling sexual lioness, right? Well, she is. She attracts men like flies.
Unfortunately, these men are barely above the evolutionary scale of the common house fly – sleazy politicians, sexual deviants, criminals, and fellow psychologists with brains ruled by their testicular organs.
The trouble for me is that I can’t decide if this book is supposed to be a standard romance novel or a murder-mystery thriller. It’s actually a combination of both, and there’s nothing wrong with this, except that, for my tastes, the author is unable to hold it together in an effective way.
The vast majority of the book is intensely internal – it dwells constantly on the tortured mental self-dialogue of Kate Bennett. She is in a perpetual state of self-questioning and misgiving. She’s can’t understand herself, but she squirms and struggles heroically to find clarity and change.
The problem is that this voluminous inner dialogue often becomes tedious. I think most readers will grow frustrated or exasperated as we listen in on Kate Bennett endlessly, yet fruitlessly self analyzes herself, questions her every move, doubts her every thought, second-guess her every motivation.
The author manages to cobble together a fairly reasonably complex and compelling murder mystery plot – the key to which is centered on a deeply-troubled mental patient – a shockingly lovely 18-year old girl who unfortunately can’t help because she is mostly catatonic or too delusional to be of value.
But the entire plot collapses upon itself at the end like a house of cards. It does so because of the way the “big finish” scene is choreographed. To say the least, the denouement is not skillfully handled – and I mean really not skillfully handled at all. That’s a shame because it tarnishes the rest of what is a well-written, well-conceived book with characters that are interesting and vivid.
My impression is that some readers will find this a 4- or 5-star read, while others will drop out well before the final chapters and rate it a 1-star read. To that end, I split the difference and offer three stars – and I will add that I believe Derick Parsons to be a deeply skilled writer with a brilliant future — a brilliant future indeed.
Ken Korczak is the author of: BIRD BRAIN GENIUS