Book review: Hidden Bodies by Caroline Kepnes

Monday, March 28, 2016 Permalink

You, a debut novel by Caroline Kepnes made my top eight books of 2014, but I didn’t love it as much as some. I certainly enjoyed it and a book written from the viewpoint of an almost-sympathetic psychopath really offered something very different.

Kepnes reintroduces us to Joe – the psychopathic bookseller – in her second novel, Hidden Bodies.

Book review: Hidden Bodies by Caroline KepnesHidden Bodies
by Caroline Kepnes
Series: Joe Goldberg #2
Published by Simon & Schuster AU
on February 25th 2016
Source: NetGalley
Genres: Thriller / Suspense, Psychological Thriller
ISBN: 1471137325, 9781471137327
Pages: 400

Joe Goldberg is no stranger to hiding bodies. In the past ten years, this thirty-something has buried four of them, collateral damage in his quest for love. Now he’s heading west to Los Angeles, the city of second chances, determined to put his past behind him.

In Hollywood, Joe blends in effortlessly with the other young upstarts. He eats guac, works in a bookstore, and flirts with a journalist neighbor. But while others seem fixated on their own reflections, Joe can’t stop looking over his shoulder. The problem with hidden bodies is that they don’t always stay that way. They re-emerge, like dark thoughts, multiplying and threatening to destroy what Joe wants most: true love.

And when he finds it in a darkened room in Soho House, he’s more desperate than ever to keep his secrets buried. He doesn’t want to hurt his new girlfriend—he wants to be with her forever. But if she ever finds out what he’s done, he may not have a choice...

Nearly six months have passed since the concluding events of You and when we meet Joe he is smitten with his new love. Amy Adam. However… Amy’s not quite the person Joe thinks and even HIS (somewhat screwy) sensibilities are offended by some of her antics.

Joe obviously has a type. He would say quirky; we would say seriously-fucked-up. Whether he’s drawn to them or them to him, I’m no longer sure.

We (along with Joe) are alerted to Amy’s duplicity quite early in novel and it almost seems as if Joe’s torn between being kinda impressed someone could ‘play’ the ultimate ‘player’; and needing revenge on the woman who toyed with his affections.

He tosses in his job and tracks Amy to Hollywood where he comes across an interesting array of locals.

We didn’t see Joe socialise much with anyone outside of his beloved Beck, in You, so it’s enlightening to see how he interacts with those around him.

We’ve all seen neighbours on the news comment on their surprise that they’ve lived next to a serial killer… ‘They seemed so normal,” they say. Joe’s a bit off but I’m not sure customers and friends would suspect he’s responsible for the deaths of several women, and random other peeps who’ve gotten in his way.

Again it’s hard not to identify with Joe – despite his proclivities. We’re in his head and the book’s told in first person from his point of view. He’s again witty and intelligent, so… frustratingly engaging.

After his arrival in LA, Joe’s sidetracked by the wealthy and eccentric ‘Love’ and her brother ‘Forty’; and suddenly he’s hanging with celebrities and traveling by private jet. Every so often, between partying and the occasional ‘compulsory’ kill, he stops to ponder on his good fortune – concerned his past will catch up with him.

I eked this book out for WAY longer than I thought possible. And in retrospect I realise it’s because I was disappointed and struggled to get into it as much as I expected I would.

Joe’s great and (again) well-written. Indeed, I (again) found the prose compelling and clever – though it’s fairly explicit at times. The support cast are sufficiently fucked-up, that we don’t worry too much when Joe feels compelled to assist them into their next life.

However… the plot felt a little ‘all over the place’. It wasn’t evenly paced and it’s almost as if Kepnes couldn’t decide (herself) where the book (and Joe) were heading. The ending felt very rushed and came (a little) from left field.

So, I was ultimately a tad disappointed. It won’t keep me from reading more however – if there are future instalments – because I have a soft spot for Joe.

Hidden Bodies by Caroline Kepnes was published in Australia by Simon & Schuster. (I’m not actually sure when this was / is to be released as the electronic copy I have says May 2016 – so previously held off on reading and reviewing – but it’s already out elsewhere!)

I received a copy of this book via NetGalley from the publisher for review purposes.

  • danielaark
    March 28, 2016

    Sorry to hear the plot wasn’t that good but I think it is fascinating when you find characters to which you should NOT related but you can’t help it. Why writers write such good characters??? 🙂 They always make me think… why do I like this crazy??? what is wrong with me? Great review Debbie 🙂

    • Debbish
      March 29, 2016

      In my review of You, I go on and on about how witty both Joe (and Beck) are and I felt quite envious. I didn’t go into detail but in this novel Joe ‘falls’ into some screenwriting and is – from all accounts – very good at it. I’m not surprised given his love of words and reading and clever mind!

  • Heather Duff (@hross42)
    March 29, 2016

    What a shame it wasn’t as good as the previous book. For a serial killer he seems dare I say likeable! Thanks for sharing!

    • Debbish
      March 29, 2016

      He is. It’s a good series Heather… I’m assuming there’ll be more.

  • Michelle Weaver (@pinkypoinker)
    March 29, 2016

    I imagine it takes great skill to get your reader to like a character who’s a serial killer. Sounds interesting Deb.

    • Debbish
      March 29, 2016

      You’d probably enjoy ‘You’ Michelle. I did – very much so – but it became the fast favourite of many who read it. It’s very clever and Kepnes writes very well.

  • E
    July 21, 2019

    I was wondering if Joe actually does confess to Love in the hotel room? She takes it so well. It seems quite unbelievable. The whole time I was asking myself whether this was a dream or really happening to Joe because he seems really disconnected from reality a lot and the way he never gets caught doing anything bad is remarkable (until the very end, of course). I’d love to hear other people’s perspectives/point of views because everything is from his point of view, for obvious reasons. Do people REALLY not have a clue until he gets arrested? It seems Amy (at the very end) is the only one who reveals what Joe was like/an outsider connection.

    • Debbish
      July 22, 2019

      I must admit I can’t remember the detail of this now but recall I was disappointed in it and that he really did seem to spiral in this book!

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