3.5/5

Kept in the Darkis British author Penny Hancock's debut novel.

Forty something Sonia lives in a beautiful home on the Thames River in England. She is being pressured by her family to sell the house now that her children are grown, but she is quite resistant to this idea. Their constant pressure seems to have widened a crack in Sonia's psyche.

Fifteen year old Jez comes to the door of River House to take up an offer from Sonia's husband to borrow some music. He's not home, but Sonia invites him in anyway......and decides that he won't be leaving. He is a beautiful boy and she decides she will be the one to protect him and keep him safe. So she drugs him and locks him in the music room.....

All of this happens within the first few chapters of the book. So, we know the crime early on. The question is will Jez escape? And why is Sonia doing this? We get little glimpses into her past as the book progresses, revealing more and more of a relationship that was distinctly unhealthy.

What drove this book for me was Sonia's rationalizations and thought processes. Hancock has written wonderful dialogue for Sonia. She is able to completely twist the situation around in her mind - she is truly only doing her best to help this poor boy - completely obliterating the fact that she is the one putting him in danger. She can't understand why Jez is not more grateful. The crime Sonia has committed is horrifying, but is Sonia herself who is gave me that creepy, unsettled feeling in my stomach as I read. There is a twist at the end, that I did suspect was coming a few chapters before.

Hancock employs a first person narration style for Kept in the Dark. It's unusual as the entire book is told from the criminal's point of view and we never really get to know the victim at all. We know Jez wants to escape, but only from what Sonia tells us. Readers looking for an action packed book won't find it here. Instead the book moves at a slower pace as Hancock deliberately and deliciously builds the story bit by bit.

Read an excerpt of Kept in the Dark.

Hancock has penned an interesting debut. I would pick up another book by this author - her next is scheduled for the first half of 2013.  You can find Hancock on Twitter and on Facebook.

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