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Book Author: Nell Pattison

NOWHERE TO HIDE by Nell Pattison: Book Review

Two sisters and five others, members of an informal bird-watching group, get together on Boxing Day, the day after Christmas, for a hike.  They meet at the nature reserve in Lincolnshire, England, and what is supposed to be an opportunity to view a murmuration of starlings (a huge group of birds flying together, hundreds or even thousands) ends in suspicion, terror, and murder.

Lauren and Emily are the sisters, although they rarely see each other.  Their mother was unmarried and alcoholic, unable to look after them properly, and at a young age they were removed from her care by a children’s protection service and placed in a variety of foster homes.  Finding places for the girls was made more difficult by the fact that Emily is profoundly deaf, and many families were unable or unwilling to welcome the two into their homes.

Now a successful businesswoman, Emily’s hearing is almost normal thanks to her cochlear implants.  However, as the novel opens, one of the implants isn’t working, so she isn’t able to hear everything that’s going around her.

Lauren, the older sister, now works at the reserve, and she sees it as her responsibility that the hike goes smoothly.  She’s worked hard to get this job and likes it, although truth be told she’s jealous of her more successful sister.  It’s not exactly that she would want to live in London as Emily does, but she’s very aware of the things her sister has that she doesn’t, including Emily’s expensive new car.  It was Emily’s idea for the two of them to spend Christmas week together, and although Lauren agreed she’s aware of the tension between them and thinks that Emily must feel it also.

The bird-watching group is a disparate one.  In addition to the sisters, there’s Morna, a volunteer at the visitors’ center who wanted the position that Lauren has; Alec, the oldest of the group, who wants everyone to follow his lead; Dan, who thinks constantly of the wife he no longer has; Ben, whose shyness verges on the pathological; and Kai, who is on the hike for a very different reason than looking for birds.

And, of course, everyone is hiding a secret.  A couple of days before the hike, the group gathered for drinks in a pub, a get-together that nearly ended in a brawl.  Alec, who views himself as the “most knowledgeable” person among them, thinks he doesn’t receive the respect that he deserves.  He feels quite superior to everyone else and hoards his knowledge of their secrets.  That is, until it becomes the most advantageous time for him to reveal them.

Nowhere to Hide has, I think, more than one meaning.  The obvious one is that after the murder there’s nowhere for the surviving members to hide in the wilderness.  The other meaning is that there’s nowhere for the secrets that the individuals are keeping to hide, that sooner or later they’ll all be brought out into the open.  Well, almost all.

Nell Pattison has written a fascinating book, with a deep insight into the world of the hearing impaired; it’s not surprising that she is a teacher of the Deaf.  Her characters and their motivations ring true on every page.  You can read more about the author at various sites on web.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden OldiesPast Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.