Review: The Hungry Dark by Jen Williams

The Hungry Dark by Jen Williams

Timy reviews The Hungry Dark, a standalone thriller by Jen Williams.

An ARC was received by HarperVoyager via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

About the Book
Series:standalone
Genre:Thriller
Publisher:HarperVoyager
Date of Publishing:April 11, 2024
Trigger Warnings:death, violence, mental abuse, child abuse
Page count:352

Possible fit for The Sound of Madness Reading Challenge 2024 prompts:

Joker prompt that goes with anything: Now We Are Free

Anywhere Away From HereKiss My Ass
HandwrittenYou Are My Home
PsychoSummer Jam
AddictedNew Song
The MysticSay It
Queen of KingsThe Legend of Mother Swan
Accidentally in LoveThrough Glass
White FlagRoad to Joy
Sob StoryGive That Wolf a Banana
Always HalloweenKill Your Conscience
TherapyGhosts & Monsters
Low LifeChasing Stars
Book Blurb
The Hungry Dark by Jen Williams

Master of unsettling suspense Jen Williams is back with another chilling, dark read that will draw readers into a gruesome and atmospheric nightmare

Macabre murders plague a rural town as a scam-artist psychic races to find the answers in this haunting thriller from award-winning author Jen Williams, perfect for fans of C.J. Tudor and Alex North.

As a child, Ashley Whitelam was haunted by ghostly figures no one else could see. Silent and watchful, these Heedful Ones followed her wherever she went. She hasn’t seen them for eighteen years, not since that fateful night at Red Rigg House.

But now they’re back, and they’re trying to tell her something.

Children start to disappear across the Lake District and Ashley becomes involved in the investigation, eager for free publicity to promote her work as a psychic. She never expected the collaboration to bear fruit, but when she discovers the body of one of the missing children, everything changes.

The police are convinced that she’s involved with the killings, and the press are hounding her for answers. Desperate to clear her name, she works with true crime podcaster, Freddie Miller, to investigate. As they look deeper into the disappearances, Ashley must dig into the demons of her past, before the nightmare in the present comes for her, too.

Song of the Book

Toxicity by System Of A Down might not be the perfect match, but it just came to me and I like it, so screw that. There is quite a lot of toxicity going around in The Hungry Dark anyway.

Review

I’m going to start with an apology. I was supposed to have my review before The Hungry Dark was published, but then I fell behind on stuff. I’ll be honest, I thought this might happen, because even though I was eyeing this book on NetGalley, I knew time would be tight, so I would have let it slide. But then an opportunity came to get my hands on an ARC, and the temptation was just too great. At least we are still in the release month, so…

The Hungry Dark is my first Jen Williams book ever. I know, I know. I just somehow never had the chance to read anything by her, and that was the biggest reason why I eventually decided to get the ARC. I went into the book blind, and I had no expectations set. I know some of my friends love her books, so I hoped that this would be a bandwagon I could happily jump on. The jury is still out on that, but I can say for sure that this most definitely wasn’t my last Jen Williams book. I breezed through it in a couple of days and boy am I lucky with thrillers/mysteries this year.

The Hungry Dark tells Ashley’s story, who lives with her family in a small village in Cumbria and works as a medium. After an accident in her childhood, her father decided it would be a good idea to make money out of the media circus and so decided to build up a career for Ashley and the family. She is an adult now, and as she is about to face the place of her literal nightmares, she also finds herself in the middle of a police investigation of kidnapped and murdered children all over England. What starts out as a con, takes a wild turn and gives Ashley the opportunity to face her demons – be they shadowy or very real.

There are a lot of things to love about this book. The setting, the writing, the characters (and not necessarily their personalities but how they are written, their complexity, that they feel like real people and not at all one dimensional), the plot, and the relationships of the characters. I’m not going to go into everything because we’d be here for a very long time, but I’d like to talk about a few aspects that made this book so good in my eyes.

For me, the main focus of The Hungry Dark was the family dynamics. I know this kinda sounds weird since there is a murder investigation going on with mysterious elements and I promise it gets just enough attention to keep you invested, but what got me invested was Ash and her relationship with her family. If I had to describe it, I probably would go for toxic. It certainly felt uncomfortable to read about their interactions, and some bits hit a bit too close to home. The way Ash was treated like a troublesome teenager instead of the 32 years old woman she is was just cringy AF. I honestly was more invested in Ash getting away from that family than I was in finding out what’s behind the main mystery. It was lovely how different she was around Freddie, how he could make her come out of her shell.

A common complaint with me is that the conclusion feels rushed. I think Williams handled the revelations really well, there were still surprises coming until the end, keeping you on the edge of your seat. Or turning the pages, really. She kept the suspense up, but also we got clues throughout, and even though you slowly start putting the puzzle together, it still manages to punch at the end. It has some predictable bits, but The Hungry Dark is certainly one of the better thrillers I’ve read. My only complaint is that the book ends abruptly. Don’t get me wrong, the main plot gets wrapped up nicely, we get answers and everything. But since I was so invested in Ash’s relationship with her family, I wanted to see more about how things went down there.

This might not be my most coherent review, so let’s just say I can absolutely see why Jen Williams has such loyal fans. The Hungry Dark is a delightfully dark and twisted thriller, about toxicity, really. And how every act has its consequences. That sacrifice is not always the solution we seek. All in all, The Hungry Dark is a novel I can recommend to anyone who loves a bit of heavy reading. Well worth your time!

Our Judgement
They Shall Be Remembered - 4.5 Crowns

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