Book Review: Hidden City

Genre: supernatural, mystery, action/adventure
Publisher: Gryphonwood Press

The city of Cleveport is in crisis. People are dying, and a supernatural contagion is sweeping through the heavily populated areas. For a man with a co-dependent relationship with the city, it’s not the sort of problem he can hide from.
There’s a wealth of danger and intrigue thrumming beneath the typical veneer of the city, and talented beings walk among the more mundane citizens. Struggling to make a living straddling the two worlds, Steven Hines has taken his gift for communing with his city and built himself a business as a PI. Even so, this is way out of his league.

Part of the beauty in ‘Hidden City’ is the way Alan Baxter makes sure his characters are brutally aware of their limitations. Steven’s skills sound good on the surface, but they’re a minor ability and more often than not a major pain in the butt. The best chance for Cleveport’s survival isn’t your typical action/adventure hero, brimming with confidence and capable of basically anything to serve the plot. Instead, he’s nuanced, self-aware, and more than willing to acknowledge that he might not be able to do anything. There’s something wonderful in that characterisation, making for a sympathetic and relatable cast of characters you can’t help but be drawn to. It’s deeply compelling, and truthfully? This would make a fantastic Netflix series.

It’s got to be said: there’s a language warning at play. It’s not gratuitous cursing, designed to look or sound edgy. Instead, it adds another layer of realism to the story (because let’s be honest here, many of us would be cursing up a storm in the same situation). And while it’s not overly frequent, readers who can’t stand cursing in fiction might struggle a little with ‘Hidden City’.

‘Hidden City’ also isn’t the novel to reach for if you want your prose flowery and your descriptions deeply detailed. Alan Baxter has a gift for conveying far more than should be possible in so few words, and the world he’s created here is at times concerningly familiar, even with all of the strangness. It makes for a tense, edge-of-your-seat ride through the streets of a city in chaos.

If you like your fiction fast paced, witty, and filled with characters you can’t help but adore, you’re going to want to add ‘Hidden City’ to your TBR pile immediately.

‘Hidden City’ is published by Gryffonwood books, and is available through the publisher’s website and through leading retailers.

Rating: 5 stars

Review by Kylie Thompson

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