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BOOK REVIEW: The Mystery of Hollow Places by Rebecca Podos

| 13 January 2016 | Reply

BOOK REVIEW: The Mystery of Hollow Places by Rebecca Podos

Balzer + Bray
January 2016
Hardcover, $17.99 USD
Reviewed by Aly Locatelli




As long as you don’t turn the last page in a book, you get to believe whatever you want to believe. You can have faith the good guys will win, the clearly identifiable bad guys will lose, and everyone will go home and eat Spicy Italians on flatbread on their cheerfully dumpy living room sofa.
I’m not living a sunshiny state of delusion. I know this is real life, not some story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle or Agatha Christie or Rex Stout. Whatever’s in room 256 will be in the room, whether I open the door or not.
But I am so fucking scared to turn the page.

The Mystery of Hollow Places is a beautifully written, artfully set-up mystery novel by debut author Rebecca Podos, and it is, hands down, one of the best debuts this reader has ever had the pleasure of reading. If it hadn’t been for real life knocking down my door, this book would’ve been finished in a day and possibly re-read the next day.

Imogene Scott knows nothing about her mother, except for a story her father had told her every bedtime as a child, about how they’d met the day she had to go and identify her mother’s body.

Carefully, he slotted the chisel against it, and with a chink, chink, chink, CRACK, the heart split in two. Inside the thick gray rind of rock there were no vessels, or tissue, or anything warm.
Instead, a pocket of crystals like clear teeth grinned up at him. This happened, he knew from his school days: with enough time and the right conditions, precious stones could grow in hollow places.

To fill the gap left by her mother, Imogene has always been incredibly close with her father; Joshua Scott, mystery crime writer and ex-pathologist.

When her father goes missing, seemingly vanishing into thin air with no clues left behind (except for the stone heart Imogene could’ve sworn she’d last seen in his office), Imogene takes it upon herself to find him. She knows him better than anyone — better than the police, better than her stepmother who his beside herself with worry — and it stands to reason that if she finds her father, she will also find the estranged mother she knows nothing about. Because why else would he have run away, if it weren’t to search for the woman he had once loved?

Right now, I could fill my own book with what I don’t know about Dad. I have the stone heart, and a theory that even I’ll admit sounds crazy, but few hard facts.
But that’s okay. Because in mysteries, if nothing else you
know that no matter how weird or dark or hopeless things get, one way or another it’ll be all right by the end.

With only a theory, her best friend, a stone heart, and one of her father’s books Imogene takes us on a journey of self discovery and unsolved mysteries dying to be solved.

Before she was my stepmother, Lindy said in one of our few sessions together that faith is a special thing that only exists where there isn’t any proof.

Every family has secrets, and Podos perfectly illustrates that in the starkest way possible: children lie to parents, parents keep things hidden from their children and each other, and when the unthinkable happens, it is impossible to know where to start. Imogene is a teenager coming to terms with who she is — a motherless girl, attached to her father, fording a friendship with her stepmother where before there was none — and with her father’s disappearance, figuring out who she is without her family. Who she could be alone.

The Mystery of Hollow Places focuses a lot on human relationships — familial, friendly, and even romantic. Although romance isn’t a huge part of the novel (Imogene has a very sweet childhood crush), it lightened the atmosphere and provided sweet moments that made this reader grin like a fool.

Dad’s taught me a lot over the years: how to pick the lock on my old Civic, how to choose the best table at Subway. How to read. How to make a Bloody Mary. How to swim and how to breathe out and sink. How to find a woman with only a seventeen-year-old picture in the back of a mystery book and a bedtime story as clues — and I did that much at least.
But if there’s one thing Dad’s bad times have taught me, it’s this: I never, ever want to have anything I can’t survive without.

This debut novel isn’t just your run-of-the-mill mystery. It’s not a simple Point A to Point B with added Plot Twist to keep things interesting, where you end up seeing the end coming from a mile away. It’s atmospheric, and beautifully written (word porn at its finest), with challenging topics and thought-provoking moments. It was easy to see oneself in Imogene’s shoes, but impossible to fully comprehend everything she felt.

Insanely addicting, wonderfully heart-wrenching and poignant, The Mystery of Hollow Places is a book I’ll recommend until my last, dying breath.

Category: Book Reviews, Other Reviews

About the Author ()

21. A reader, a writer, a reviewer and a full-time sloth lover. I am addicted to coffee and my laptop, and love reading especially when it's rainy outside.

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