cover image The Hidden

The Hidden

Kathryn Mackel, . . WestBow, $13.99 (288pp) ISBN 978-1-59554-037-9

Novelist (The Surrogate ; The Departed ) and Hollywood writer Mackel shows her screenwriting prowess in her latest suspense offering, for better and for worse. When Harvard-trained psychologist Susan Stone returns to her childhood home, a Colorado horse ranch, she has a load of emotional baggage related to her family. Her efforts to help a young man who appears to be an abuse victim play out as a local sheriff (a close childhood friend) investigates a series of bizarre murders that might involve the young man. As a writer who has adapted two Frank Peretti novels for the screen, Mackel can pen dialogue that smoothly drives the plot forward. The downside of a Hollywood connection is the trendy preoccupation with crime scene investigations involving the sheriff and some hard-boiled forensics types. Mackel could also work on making her bad guys more convincing; the villain's vocabulary is inexcusably cheesy. However, the Christian content is coolly subtle; when characters express faith, it flows naturally from plot, and many readers will be fascinated by the book's underlying theme of demonic possession. With imaginative plotting, depth of detail and strong dialogue (from all but the villain), Mackel shows great promise as part of the new and improved wave of faith fiction. (May 9)