Kept in the Dark by Penny Hancock

An enchantingly disturbing tale about an older woman and a younger man, with shades of Lolita.

Sonia is slowly withdrawing from the world, from her marriage to an older man who travels a great deal, from her relationship with a daughter who has left home, and into the River House, her family estate on the Thames. When 15-year-old Jez knocks on her door, she is charmed by his youth, which reminds her of another time in her own life and another young boy. The pull of the river and her memories prove too strong for her, and Sonia decides to keep Jez in the River House, where she feels he belongs. As the outside world mounts a search for the missing boy, Sonia becomes convinced of the rightness of what she is doing, and her fractured grasp on reality slides further downhill.

In Kept in the Dark, Penny Hancock’s twist on the timeworn male kidnapper and young female victim, Sonia and her delusions are deliciously, convincingly creepy. The fantasy of her relationship with Jez, who is increasingly frightened and ill, gradually reshapes the rest of the world into the enemy of Sonia’s happiness, until her connection with her own past overrules the present. The reader’s willpower is tested as the stakes grow higher, along with the temptation to flip to the final page of the book. Will Sonia let Jez go as promised? Or will the force of the river, the River House and the power of obsession keep him captive? Jez’s fate and the dark secret of Sonia’s childhood are left hovering, teasing, until the closing moments of this delightful debut novel.


This review originally ran in the August 31, 2012 issue of Shelf Awareness for Readers. To subscribe, click here, and you’ll receive two issues per week of book reviews and other bookish fun!


Rating: 7 goosebumps.

2 Responses

  1. I like the goosebumps rating!

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