Embry feels the best kind of familiar. No matter your age, you’ve likely been the same kind of adrift she is, unsure where you’re going in life or what you can even do with your life based on what you already have (which for Embry is very little money and a single mother who’s in remission from cancer but still in danger of it having spread elsewhere). She’s struggling with her friendships and relationships and she doesn’t have a single person she thinks knows all of her. Keeping the people around her happy makes her keep some pieces of herself in a box and there’s just not healthy for anyone. She’s miserable.
Hidden Pieces will hit home with readers of any age in that respect, but it’s a book that never forgets teens are its true audience.
Embry and her evolution are the strongest draw of the novel and may keep readers in their seats better than the actual mystery/thriller plot of the book does. The events themselves are a little unremarkable: Embry and her guy Holden hook up in a hotel that’s empty for the season, a romantic candle gets knocked into a puddle of spilled vodka, and everything goes up in flames. Embry is then painted as a hero for rescuing a homeless man from the flames, but someone else knows better and demands that Embry fess up. When she doesn’t, a video of her and Holden together that neither one of them had any knowledge of gets out, which leads into Holden being investigated in case it qualifies as child porn!
That’s really the nicest thing Embry’s blackmailer does, as subsequent events are outright attempts to murder Embry’s loved ones. The book’s formidable page count passes quickly, but a lot of it somehow feels empty? Things absolutely happen that are important to the novel’s plot and character development, but I simply don’t recall much of it. The mystery is capably crafted with enough red herrings to make even me doubt my strong suspicions about the culprit. And I say that while taking pride in how often I solve mysteries in books before the characters get there!
There just isn’t a lot to say about Hidden Pieces, this grounded mystery/thriller set in coastal Oregon. I like this book, I like Paula Stokes, and I’ve still got a ton of her other books on my shelves just waiting to be read. Don’t just check out her “darker” titles either, her rom-com The Art of Lainey is delightful and noteworthy. This is an author with some range!