Hidden City by Alan Baxter
Review by Kylie Thompson
Rating: 5 stars
Genre: supernatural, mystery, action/adventure
Publisher: Gryphonwood Press
Life in the big city isn’t always as fun as the tourist brochures would have you believing, and life in Cleveport is no exception. It’s getting a bit crazy in Cleveport. In fact, this harbour city might just be able to out-crazy every other city in the country.
Cleveport has a dirty little secret, the kind the tourist board would never want anyone to know. Alongside the everyday chaos, there’s a hidden world of talents- people with abilities that range from the seemingly insignificant, to the terrifyingly powerful. Surrounded by that kind of power, Steven Hines doesn’t really stand out.
Steven is a man with a gift or a curse, depending on your mood. Physically and emotionally connected to Cleveport, he’s turned his minor abilities into a job as a PI with a knack for missing persons cases. But something is happening in his city. People are dying, and a contagion unlike anything Steven’s ever seen before is spreading through the bustling streets. It’s clear the police are out of their league. But can a hack PI sporting an unhealthy relationship with a sentient city really do much about it?
‘Hidden City’ is the kind of story it’s hard not to enjoy. If you’ve ever rolled your eyes and grumbled through an action flick at the ‘everyone’s an instant superhero!’ mindset, you’re probably going to love it. The characters have limitations that they can’t ignore, and the consequences for their actions reverberate well past the point of impact. It makes for deeply compelling reading, with a tension that comes from there being no promise of a happily ever after.
One of the beauties of ‘Hidden City’ is the way that Cleveport could be anywhere. It’s far too easy to see glimpses of your own familiar cityscapes in the decaying sprawl of Steven’s home, and there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself looking around for hints of magic and chaos in the real world, too.
There’s a realness to these characters. They’re likable, far too easy to relate to, and filled to overflowing with the kind of snark that only comes from life-threatening situations. There is a language warning for this one, folks, and if the naughty words are an issue, this probably isn’t the book for you. Having said that, Baxter isn’t dropping f-bombs just to sound edgy and badass- truthfully, I’d be far more shocked if the characters kept their commentaries down to ‘oh, geez!’ or ‘dearie me!’ I work to the idea that if I’d be swearing in that situation, it’s fine.
With that perspective, the characters are rather restrained in their expletives.
Restraint is a bit of a hallmark of Alan Baxter’s work. He has a knack for writing concise, action filled stories that have emotional depth without the epic monologues- if you like the Jane Austin school of multi-page descriptions, this might not be your ideal brand of vodka. But if you love the idea of books that feel like you’re reading an action blockbuster, this is an author you’re gonna want to check out.
‘Hidden City’ is the kind of book that’s incredibly hard to put down- so consider hiding away for a few hours and savouring a reading binge. If you love fast paced action glimmering with magic and the supernatural, you’re going to want to put ‘Hidden City’ at the top of your TBR pile.
‘Hidden City’ is published by Gryphonwood Press, and is available through the publisher’s website, and at leading online retailers.