Title: Kept in the Dark
Author: Penny Hancock
Release Date: August 28, 2012
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Rating: 4 out of 5
Sonia is lonely, living inside her large, beloved home, The River House. Her husband travels a lot and her adult daughter rarely comes home. And since her daughter and husband have ganged up on Sonia to try and bully her into selling her beloved family home, she has grown distant from them. When Jez, a fifteen-year-old boy, comes to her house to borrow a record of her husband’s, all of a sudden, Sonia is no longer lonely. But what she doesn’t realize is the extent she’ll go to in order to make sure Jez stays hers and to keep him from leaving.
Kept in the Dark is a novel about an abduction, except it’s told from a unique viewpoint. Rather than being the terrifying story of the abductee, struggling to stay alive and trying to find a way to escape, it’s told from the viewpoint of the abductor. At the beginning, Sonia seems relatively normal. Lonely, yes, and definitely unusually attached to her house, but just like any other woman you might come across. It’s only once Jez appears that her compulsion, her madness, begins to surface.
What drives a seemingly ordinary person to kidnap a teenage boy? That’s the question that underlies Kept in the Dark. The scariest part of the book is how Sonia rationalizes her actions. “He wants to stay. I’m not doing anything wrong,” she tells herself, despite the fact that she can clearly see that Jez is terrified. She worries about what others might think it if the story got out, how they’d misinterpret her actions. These aren’t the thoughts of a crazy woman. Unhinged, maybe, but it’s difficult to blame her actions on any sort of mental illness.
Hancock keeps Kept in the Dark moving at a slow but steady pace. She lets readers wonder if Sonia is ever going to go completely off the deep end (or has she already? I mean, she kidnapped a teenage boy!) As readers delve deeper into Sonia’s psyche, they realize she is still suffering from a past trauma, and that has woven its way into her present and affected her delusional perception of her relationship with Jez.
But Sonia doesn’t make up all of Kept in the Dark; all of the characters from Jez to Helen, Jez’s alcoholic aunt who was supposed to be watching him when he disappeared, are well-written and engaging. It’s clear that Hancock spent time crafting each of her characters meticulously. As a result, they leap off the page and draw the reader into this complex, disturbing narrative.
If you are looking for a quiet yet horrifying psychological thriller, Kept in the Dark is absolutely where you should look. Sonia’s ability to rationalize insane actions is frightening, yet also incredibly interesting. Though the book moves slowly, building up suspense, it will keep readers interested from beginning to end, as they try to puzzle out how Jez will escape from Sonia’s clutches, or whether, in order to keep him forever, Sonia is willing to kill him.