|The Hidden is the first novel I've read by Jo Chumas and it won't be the last. The Hidden is captivating from page one. Before long, the end of the book is near and I'm left wondering what a heck of a ride.|
The novel begins 1940 with the murder of Aimee Ibrahim's husband Azi. From the first chapter it is obvious there will be tons of mystery and intrigue surrounding his death. An unsuspecting Aimee goes to the university, where her late husband worked, to retrieve her husbands' belongings and is surprised to find a diary. This is no ordinary diary. It is the diary of her mamman Hezba Iqbal Sultan Hanim al-Shezira. The Hiddenturns into two seperate stories that run parallel courses.
Hezba's journal tells of her life during 1919, with her abusive husband and secret love interest, Alexandre, who's anxious to begin Cairo's revolution. Hezba is drawn to him as she wants to be heard as well. She's convinced that once the old ways are done with, her female voice will be heard. Hezba isn't interested in being one of the wives' of a man who treats her as if she is nothing. She wants a free Egypt where women and men are on level playing fields. Free of religion, customs, and restraints. Hezba's story is inspiring and worthy of the equal attention given to it.
Aimee seems to be on the same journey of finding her voice when her husband is killed. Without much family, she's uncertain of what to do next. In the '40s, much hasn't changed. Women are still second class citizens who's only purpose is to keep house and bear children. In an effort to solve the mystery that was her husband, she enlists the help of an older man named Farouk. He's as perplexing as her late husband Azi, but they have an undeniable connection.
Jo Chumas manages to write a gripping, multi-layered novel that adds up to so much more than a bunch of suspenseful moments. The characters in The Hidden all have their motivations that are the bigger story for me. The fight for equality politically, socially, and economically is more than worth having. Each character, even the bad guys, have relatable motivations. Their struggles all seem real even when their methods of action are detestable.
My one gripe with The Hidden is that there was a cryptic message that was found in Azi's things. I'm not certain I ever found the reason or purpose for that message. It's noticeable because a few chapters are devoted to finding code-breakers. Help please someone! Anyone!
The Hidden is a fast-paced, historical suspense thriller that I highly recommend. Palpable characters, an exotic setting, and great writing makes me a new fan of Jo Chumas. ***