This book is intense. It’s an intimate portrayal of a cracked mind and an unsettling portrait of the thought processes of an unhinged, sociopathic killer. Hidden Bodies follows the continued exploits of Joe Goldberg, the most unreliable of narrators, as he searches for his perfect match.
It comes on the tail of the first book in Caroline Kepnes’s series, You, and follows Joe through the fallout from the four murders he committed in New York. He follows yet another unfortunate woman to Los Angeles, and finds a mired city of sex, drugs and deceitful facades. He is sidetracked in his obsessive search by Love, a wealthy producer he meets at Soho House and who inducts him into the disreputable movie business, inadvertently fuelling his further violent escapades.
Charming and terrifying, Kepnes has crafted a character both repulsive and magnetic, such that in reading you’re as caught up in Joe’s web as the unfortunate women he seduces. From casual talk of drugging girls to the emotional reactions that do a 180 in the space of a sentence, Joe is a chilling creation. An otherwise feckless character has an inspired moment fourth-wall leaning, as those type of characters often do, when in the middle of the story he calls Joe “the guy who knew how it ended,” a good summation of Joe’s warped-minded approach to life.
At times being inside such a focused mind feels as claustrophobic as the picture Kepnes has painted of Los Angeles. His obsessive drive for revenge and his ideal woman are exhaustively expounded, leaving little room for readers to breathe. A voice that almost strays into stream-of-consciousness is an effective way to articulate the levels of precision and abnormality in Joe’s pursuit. The physical setting of LA is as cloying as its surface-obsessed peripheral characters, all heat and Joe’s disdain and empty dreams.
Joe becomes an interesting proxy through which to explore the pervasive nature of social media in our modern lives. Kepnes uses his character as a clever way to avoid preaching on the popular theme that sharing so much of ourselves through these platforms is A Bad Thing. For this reason the book feels very of the moment – it’s pointed, but some of the references will date poorly. Joe’s contempt for the narcissistic nature of the East Coast and the tactless way Love approaches his lack of wealth are easy criticisms of the nouveau riche, and as a reader you find yourself agreeing unsettlingly with a murderous sociopath.
Kepnes has found an eerily compelling character in Joe, the face of unhealthy obsession and lack of moral boundaries drawing her audience easily into his Los Angeles misadventures.
|Publisher||Simon & Schuster|
|Distributor||Simon And Schuster Australia|