Why we love it: Coming fast on the heels of her last compelling thriller, All That is Lost Between Us, Western Australian author Sara Foster delivers again with another suspenseful and poignant novel, The Hidden Hours. This time she transports us from hot and dusty remote Australia to the trendy townhouses of West London in the depths of winter.
Twenty-one-year-old Australian Eleanor is trying to forget her troubled past when she arrives in London. But trouble seems to be following her. After moving in with her uncle’s family, her ice-queen Aunt Susan finds her a temping job at the boutique publishing house, Parker & Lane, where she is CEO. Soon after, the head of marketing, Arabella Lane, is found dead in the Thames after a glamorous Christmas party on a river boat. Arabella had been married to the head of Parker & Lane – the notoriously brutish and entitled Nathan Lane, son of a Member of Parliament and a man used to getting his own way. Eleanor had been working as Nathan’s personal assistant and when she turns up to work after the party, with the hangover from hell and unable to remember very much, she is unwittingly drawn into a terrible drama.
Arabella’s death looks like it wasn’t an accident or suicide, so the police are looking for a murderer – and Eleanor was one of the last people to see her alive. As she struggles to remember what happened on the boat, Eleanor realises she may be in deeper than she thought, especially when she finds Arabella’s stunning engagement ring in her own handbag.
Foster skillfully draws us into Eleanor’s predicament and her bad decisions as she implicates herself further with the murder detectives. She is tortured by the demons from her past, and the dark memories of her family’s troubles. Her family had been forced to abandon their home after her father lost his job and they were forced to start again in the outback, with disastrous consequences. As Eleanor faces the truth about Arabella’s fate, it brings back the lies and secrets and finally she is forced to confront what happened to her brother and father, and her own guilt.
Sara Foster builds up the nail-biting suspense to both threads of Eleanor’s story, evoking her poignant back story and the trouble dogging her present. With a cast of plausible suspects in the murder mystery surrounding Arabella Lane’s miserable death, she keeps the reader guessing throughout the novel as to who or why someone would have murdered this glamorous publishing professional and how the seemingly innocent Eleanor could have feasibly been involved.
Foster evokes a vivid sense of place even as she weaves the two tales of such starkly contrasting environments, conjuring the bleakness of a London winter and the hot, dry Australian summer in the outback. The Hidden Hours has you in its grip from the first pages until its dramatic conclusion at the edge of the murky Thames.
Sara Foster was born and raised in England, and moved to Australia in 2004. She has published four other novels: Come Back to Me, Beneath the Shadows, Shallow Breath and All That is Lost Between Us. She lives near Perth with her husband and two young daughters, and is currently a doctoral candidate with Curtin University.