The Hidden People
by Alison Littlewood
Review by Katie Carmien
Jo Fletcher Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781681442938
Date: 01 November 2016 List Price $26.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
When Londoner Albert Mirralls learns his cousin Lizzie has been brutally murdered by her husband Jem, he goes at once to Halfoak, the tiny village she called home. There he discovers to his horror that not only does Jem claim to have killed a changeling in an attempt to rescue his "real" wife from the fairies, half the villagers agree. Even worse, Jem's seemingly genuine belief in this wild claim means he may escape the noose.
Determined to make sure his cousin's murderer hangs, Albie moves into her cottage and begins his own investigation. He resolves that he'll have none of the villagers' superstition, but as his wife Helena grows increasingly erratic, and strange occurrences plague him, doubt creeps in. There's no such thing as fairies--right?
Littlewood's novel is beautifully atmospheric. It's not so much shock-and-awe jump-scare horror as a slow, creeping buildup of wrongness that she creates by subtly weaving together details. She paints a vivid picture of Halfoak, and then starts to tear it apart, bit by bit. The novel has a slow pace, which some readers may not like, but I found that rather than taking away from the unsettling nature of the book, the pace intensifies it.
One of the best things about the novel is that there's always both a mundane and supernatural explanation for everything that's happening, and the reader can never be sure which is which. There may be moments where it seems like one or the other is truly the case, but then Littlewood overturns it straight away. Albie never knows the entire truth, and the reader never does either, which serves to enhance the subtle horror of the novel.
I do have several complaints, however. Firstly, the author writes the Yorkshire accent phonetically. There are some parts of a local dialect that do need to be written out (saying "tha" instead of "you", for example), but the rest of it was a little distracting, and I would have preferred it if the author simply described the accent and wrote the rest of the dialogue normally. Secondly, the ending feels somewhat rushed. After all the lovely buildup throughout the novel, that twist could have used another chapter or three to really sink in. However, it's still overall a good book, and fans of unique horror should definitely give it a try.