4 out of 4 stars
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Linda Berry’s Hidden: Part One is a fast paced Western mystery set in rural Oregon. Just back from Afghanistan, Sully is looking forward to the homecoming he has long imagined during his service as a Marine. His welcome is disastrously different than what he was hoping for as reality inevitably comes crashes in. His beloved family ranch has fallen into serious disrepair, with bills and wages stacking up. Sully’s father, Joe, has hidden the facts from his son, refusing to face up to them even when his health takes a turn for the worse and Sully has to take over the running of the ranch.
To add to Sully’s worries there is a gang of horse thieves operating in the area, and not even he is safe as they take off with one of his most valuable horses. Sully finds solace in the company of Maggie, a local therapist, as they find unexpected comfort in each other.
The story also follows that of Justin, a talented up and coming rodeo star. Struggling to make ends meet, he finally catches a break, but is this stroke of good fortune all that it seems to be or will there be a hefty price?
The characters in this book really make the story what it is, a very enjoyable read. They are realistic and believable right from the beginning, whether you feel immediate compassion, suspicion or straight out dislike towards them, you can’t help but be drawn into their various personal stories. They have all had obstacles and pasts to overcome and are making the best in their own ways as they see fit.
The peace that Sully is searching for in his work on the ranch is difficult to obtain in spite of his efforts. Like many returning soldiers, he has seen horrific things, has had to live with a daily level of fear and adrenaline, as well as seeing many of his friends die. He is just trying to find his way in the world and his own place in it. I like how the author illustrates this without it overwhelming an already detailed story, only using it to provide a good background and to show that there are different methods for everyone to cope with hardship.
Not being a big fan of Western fiction, I found this book had a great mix of life on the ranch, the rodeo circuit and the mystery element of the horse thieves. There was very little romance which was a refreshing change. Although it hinted at possibilities in the future, the fact that it didn’t force the characters into romantic situations made them all the more realistic.
There were two substantial cliff-hangers at the end of the book, which meant I was so disappointed to come to the last page, as I just wanted to continue reading. Luckily, Hidden: Part Two will be released later this year. Hopefully in this next book Justin's story will also be focused on a little more, as he was a character who I really felt for.
I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars. A brilliantly written book that while it broaches some serious subjects of war and loss, it does not let it impact on the flow of the story or the character development. I would recommend it to any who enjoy a good mystery or crime read, as well as those who are a fan of Westerns. Congratulations to the author for a great book.
Hidden, Part One
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