Pretty Lizzie Higgs is gone, burned to death on her own hearth – but was she really a changeling, as her husband insists? Albie Mirralls met his cousin only once, in 1851, within the grand glass arches of the Crystal Palace, but unable to countenance the rumours that surround her murder, he leaves his young wife in London and travels to Halfoak, a village steeped in superstition.
Albie begins to look into Lizzie’s death, but in this place where the old tales hold sway and the ‘Hidden People’ supposedly roam, answers are slippery and further tragedy is just a step away . . .
I received this book free via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The blurb sounded interesting, and didn’t quite occur to me until after I was approved to read it that it was classed by Amazon as a horror. I am not good at scary books, so I did approach it tentatively after that. I feel like my own nervousness made getting into the book difficult; however I was soon hooked despite my cowardice!
Despite my own inability to focus, this novel was very good and definitely had an interesting premise. I feel like it was very realistic as a piece set in Victorian Britain; the language was largely convincing, although I wasn’t as sold by the Yorkshire accents. The story had the feel of a Victorian novel; I often found that I’d have to remind myself that it is a contemporary piece – I’m someone who’s read an awful lot of Victorian fiction, so I’d say that’s effective writing!
I personally wouldn’t have classified this as horror. While there was a lot of suspense, and there was certainly some horrific imagery, I was never really scared by it. As a massive wimp, I’m honestly quite glad of this! It works very well as a historical suspense or even a crime novel. While the story was mostly uneventful, with the main events occurring before the main story begins and towards the end, it was very enjoyable and certainly worth reading for the sheer amount of detail and work put into it – it is obvious from the start that Littlewood’s story is the result of huge amounts of research, and is clearly a labour of love. I love a novel that clearly has a huge amount of background work behind it, especially when it is executed as well as this.
Overall, I found that The Hidden People was an engaging and detailed read, with plenty of twists and suspense. It made for a great read, and although I imagine for many the ending could be unfulfilling, I found it satisfying and very Victorian. The story cuts through the pastoral Victorian country life, showing an incredibly dark side to the simple, peaceful existence of the people of Halfoak and by extension many rural areas in the 19th century. The version I was sent, which will presumably be the same as the eBook edition when it’s published, includes author’s notes at the end describing the very real cases and folklore the story came from – most notably the case of Bridget Cleary. As I’ve mentioned before, Alison Littlewood uses this history and information very well, and I would definitely recommend this book.
The Hidden People is set to be published on the 6th of October. Pre-order here (UK).
See you soon,