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September 7, 2018

The Book of Hidden Things by Francesco Dimitri ~ a Review

by MK French

Four friends had made a pact to meet every year in Castelfranco, their hometown. When Art doesn't show up, his friends try to track him down. There is an illegal marijuana farm on his property, a book he had apparently written, and bizarre rumors about his apparent miraculous abilities. The book he wrote, called "The Book of Hidden Things," promises to reveal dark wonders and secrets. Art had traveled around the world before settling back in Italy, and he was always the leader of their group of friends. Fabio became a photographer, Mauro became a lawyer, and Tony became a surgeon. As the novel unfolds around Art's disappearance, we get flashes back to their friendship together as teens, and there are teases of a larger mystery. Art had disappeared for a week inside an ancient olive grove, and apparently, he was never the same afterward. Fabio is the first to make the connection to the old grove, but the mystery around Art's disappearances continue.
Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

The Book of Hidden Things
July 2018; Titan Books; 978-1785657078
ebook, print (385 pages); fantasy, thriller
There is the current day search for Art and trying to figure out what had happened to him in the days leading up to disappearance, as well as flashes of the past. There are surreal elements, and there are secrets that they keep from each other. Some are big ones, some are small ones, but as we progress through the novel in different points of view, it gives us the hint of an unreliable narrator. Things change as the novel progresses, and we see parts of Art's story for ourselves, and then it changes again when you least expect it.

This is Francesco Dimitri's first novel in English, and he is one of the most significant Italian fantasy writers. As such, this is marketed toward fans of Elena Ferrante, Neil Gaiman, and Donna Tartt. It's an apt comparison, and his style of writing sucks me in as easily as Neil Gaiman's does. Francesco has a great command of English so that the characters all feel real. The environs and scenes feel real, and the conclusion felt particularly cinematic.

"They are the junctions between the profane and the sacred, the seen and the unseen." Hence the idea of the Hidden Things of Art's and Francesco's titles. We never get a glimpse of what Art was talking about in his book, yet there is just enough of the magical realism in the story to make the twist ending cast doubt on the rest of it. I don't feel quite cheated, because there's always that sense of what if it's true? throughout the text that the ending builds on. I hope to see more of his works in the future.

Buy The Book of Hidden Things at Amazon

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and golden retriever. 

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