Jennifer McMahon is in my opinion the queen of creepily crafted storytelling and The Children on the Hill is just her latest in a long list of horrifyingly suspenseful twisty novels.
In 1978 Violet and her brother Eric seemed to be living a quiet, happy life with their grandmother (Gran), a psychiatrist and Director of a psychiatric facility in Vermont. Dr. Helen Hildreth, although busy with work and her research always made time for her grandchildren. They had homecooked meals, homeschooled and rode everywhere on their bikes, including the drive-in movies. Their memories of their grandmother include her favorite gin, her cigarettes and her lighter.
Then one day Gran introduces them to another child, about their age named Iris. Iris does not speak, looks dirty and wears a cap she refuses to take off. She seems to be unable to do the simplest things. But as Iris spends more time with Violet and Eric, she begins to become more comfortable, even beginning to speak to them. Gran pulls Violet aside and asks her to be her eyes and ears on Iris’s progressions. Violet feels very important.
As the days go by, Violet and Eric invite Iris to join their monster club. Both have always been fascinated with monsters and hunt them around their property endlessly. Their favorite drive-in movie choices are always those in which monsters appear, Frankenstein being their absolute favorite. They are so sure monsters exist they write a book about them and keep it in their secret clubhouse. They are awaiting their first sighting of a monster eagerly.
As Iris and Violet begin to become close, Violet begins to feel Iris is her sister. As Iris starts to open up to Violet about her unusual memory loss such as not knowing her last name, Violet begins to question where Iris actually came from. She begins to doubt her Gran’s story.
Jump ahead to 2019 when a woman named Lizzy Shelley, the host of a podcast called Monsters Among Us who travels the United States in search of monsters. She is headed to Vermont to look into the disappearance of a young teenager who the locals believe was taken by a mysterious woman called Rattling Jane, notorious for taking young women. Lizzy knows from her searches of monsters that this type of disappearance has occurred in a few other states, and she is trying to figure out who is behind the vanishings. These young women have never been seen again.
But Lizzy thinks she knows who the monster really is, although she can’t prove it. But that is why she is here in Vermont, to hopefully find the missing girl before she disappears forever and put an end to this monster. This particular monster has haunted Lizzy since her childhood. This monster, she knows, is her sister.
The Children on the Hill is a terrifying acknowledgement to Mary Shelley’s masterpiece, Frankenstein. Included in the story are Easter eggs from Shelley’s own monster book scattered throughout the story. The novel is suspenseful and intriguing and will keep the reader up late into the night, but if you are up late, be careful of the monsters!
Thank you #NetGalley #Gallery/ScoutPress #JenniferMcMahon #TheChildrenontheHill for the advanced copy.