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Kept in the Dark: A Novel Paperback – August 28, 2012

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Editorial Reviews


"It's such a thrill to read a book as deliciously dark and richly evocative as KEPT IN THE DARK. From the first page to its shocking finale it draws you into its world and won't let you go. A wonderful debut...I took KEPT IN THE DARK on my travels, thinking it would last me a couple of weeks. Two days later I'd finished it, having stayed up all night, and was telling everyone I met they had got to read it. Brilliantly written and totally gripping. I loved it." -S.J. Watson, New York Times bestselling author of Before I Go to Sleep

“I was transfixed at page one of Hancock's twisty and tense debut, KEPT IN THE DARK. A nerve-fraying journey that will keep you mesmerized to the shocking end.”—Heather Gudenkauf, New York Times bestselling author of The Weight of Silence and These Things Hidden

“KEPT IN THE DARK kept me awake far into the night. Each page pulled me deeper into Sonia’s twisted narrative.  The unstoppable manner, in which Penny Hancock drew me into this character’s world, as I read between psychic half-spread fingers covering my eyes, is a testimony to the author’s talent. By the end, I had no choice but to race to the finish.”—Randy Susan Meyers, author of The Murderer’s Daughters

“In British author Hancock’s stunning debut, a psychological thriller set over less than a week, a respectable married woman kidnaps a 15-year-old boy and holds him captive in her historic Thames-side London house.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Utterly compelling, and expertly written, KEPT IN THE DARK perfectly captures one woman's desperate need to love and be loved.  A spot on rendering of obsession, I read the story with the lights on, and for days after finishing it, could not get it out of mind.  It's that get-under-your-skin terrifyingly good."—Lesley Kagen, National Bestselling Author of Whistling in the Dark and Good Graces

“This invites comparison to John Fowles’ The Collector, but Hancock gives her narrator, Sonia, a more complex motive, crafting a narrative that grows darker as its level of tension builds. An accomplished first novel that lingers in memory.”—Booklist

“An impressive debut from a writer we’re certain to hear more about…There are hints of a young Daphne du Maurier in Hancock’s cool, evocative prose as she reveals the terrifying extent of Sonia’s obsession…Beautifully worked and with a sharp eye for the menace in the commonplace, it lingers in the memory like a Schubert melody, and casts a distinctive spell.” -The Daily Mail (UK)

“This creepy, well-written debut is reminiscent of John Fowles’s The Collector…with Sonia, Hancock pulls off the considerable feat of 'writing mad.'” -The Guardian (UK)

“A sparklingly creepy debut thriller with the most brilliant premise. When 15-year-old Jez pops round to voice coach Sonia’s to borrow some music, she can’t help herself—and she doesn’t let him leave.” -Mirror, 4-star review (UK)

“A clever, creepy thriller about misplaced affection and clear, chilling prose.” -Marie Claire (UK)

"A gripping account of a woman on the edge, who commits appalling crimes and offers them up in a tone of quietly rational domesticity." -Natasha Cooper, author of the Trish Maguire Mysteries

“In Hancock’s debut novel, a pretty, middle-aged voice coach named Sonia invites a teen boy into her house on the Thames—and decides not to let him go. Writing about her crime in a calm, measured voice, Sonia comes across as a blend of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca and John Fowles’s The Collector, a woman as smart as she is unstable.”—People

Pick of the Shelves 2012 -The Sun (UK)

About the Author

PENNY HANCOCK lives in Cambridge, England, with her husband and three children. She is a part-time primary-school teacher at a speech and language school and has traveled extensively as a language teacher. Kept in the Dark is her first novel. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Plume; Reprint edition (August 28, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0452298334
  • ISBN-13: 978-0452298330
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.8 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,068,131 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

This book was very unpredictable.
L. culler
I am looking forward to reading more of Ms. Hancock, and I anxiously await her next book.
Helene Stephens
This is pretty much the definition of a 3.5 star book for me.
M. Simpson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on October 6, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I have read many reviews about books that said, "I couldn't put it down."

I must say that I HAD to put it down! It was so intense in a very unusual way. The emotionally twisted life of this woman was so captivating and yet so stomach-twisting, I actually had to take breaks. The problem was, it was so embedded in the recesses of my mind that I would think about the story while driving, shopping, etc. and couldn't wait until I came back to it.

I don't write reviews on books as a habit. I had to write about this insidiously sneaky novel that has wormed its way into my consciousness ... probably forever.

Will buy the author's other books!
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Gail Cooke HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 5, 2012
Format: Audio CD
Born in Hampstead, London, Rosalyn Landor is the perfect voice for this chilling, scary tale of obession. She adds mystery, with pinpoint pacing revealing the depth of Sonia's dark desires. Much in demand as a child actress today Landor is sought after for her voice work and Tv appearances. She's the frosting on the cake for this noir drama.

As for author Penny Hancock - wowser! What a debut! Imaginative, clever and chilling Kept In The Dark will hold you in thrall until the last word is spoken.

Sonia is a beautiful 43-year-old woman whose only daughter has left home for university. Home is River House where Sonia grew up in an impressive abode overlooking a bit of London's Thames.

It isn't so much that Sonia begins to suffer from empty nest syndrome but it's the pressure from her often absent husband and aged mother to sell River House, which she is not inclined to do. What happens next seems to be almost as much of a surprise to her as it is to the listener. When her neighbor's handsome 15-year-old nephew, Jez, knocks on her door to borrow a record album she offers him a glass of wine then another, another until he's quite drunk. Sonia then locks him in the soundproof music room.

She is overcome by memories of her infatuation with Seb, an apparently homeless adolescent. While this occurred many years before she soon cannot differentiate between then and now, convincing herself that the drugged Jez whose mouth is frequently sealed with duct tape is staying by his own free will. Sonia becomes more deranged and determined to keep him hidden from her family during their visits.

Meanwhile, Jez's mother, Maria, arrives from Paris to search for him.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Ferdy VINE VOICE on October 3, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The premise of this novel is a seemingly normal wife and mother kidnaps a young man and holds him hostage in her home. The twists and turns are what keep you riveted to the story and what makes the ending such a shocker. Sonia is a woman who has been married for 20 plus years and raised a daughter who is at university. She lives in her childhood home, The Riverhouse, in London. She is faced with caring for an ailing mother and the prospect of having to give up her beloved home because her husband has taken a job abroad. All this turmoil in her life brings up bittersweet memories of a young love and that longing is transferred to a young musician who stops by the house to borrow an album. She can't face losing him so she locks him away in her music room which is sound proofed. The consequences of her action don't really sink in until she sees the boy's face plastered all over the newspapers and television. What follows is the twisted and disturbing story of the machinations she is willing to go through in order to keep her prize. The story switches between present day and her younger years to help explain a bit about what is driving her but as time passes her actions become more and more bizarre and disturbing. It is only in the last few pages that the picture comes completely together in a mind blowing way. Sonia's story is juxtaposed with the story of her neighbor, the kidnapped boy's aunt, who is faced with self doubt and recrimination as well as the scrutiny of her family and the police since she was the last to see him before his disappearance. The two stories end up colliding, of course, but I won't give any more than that away.
I admit that I was glued to this book for a couple of days. It is really haunting as you read it. I had to know what was going to happen next.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Barbara Ann Parker on November 14, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I was expecting something exciting but the reality was even better. I sped through this book in a flash. It was haunting, creepy, yet touching in a bizarre way. I wholeheartedly recommend this book if you want to read something from a different perspective. This book will stay with you for a long,long time. I can't wait for another book by this author.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Shannon Pease on September 23, 2012
Format: Paperback
*This is an advanced readers copy* librarything giveaway
4 Stars
When fifteen year old Jez goes missing family relationships that were already crumbling reach their limits obscuring realities about the disappearance. The family's neighbor and friend Sonia, who can't let go of her past lost love, is looking to fill an emptiness that has deepened since her daughter has gone off to college. Jez could be the answer to Sonia's problem and her way to never have to let go of all that she has lost and all that is trying to be taken from her.
First of all, I almost didn't enter this giveaway because of the description but I am glad that I did. Are parts of this hard to read? Absolutely! There were times when I didn't think I could possibly go on and would take a step back for a couple of days. If you can get around some of the actions of Sonia (it is hard to do) the plot is actually multifaceted and riveting. That said, there is only one likeable character and that is Jez, but unfortunately the only perspective given of him is through the other characters so that is why this didn't get five stars from me.
Reality slaps the face with this sort of book. Even though it is a work of fiction stuff like this is happening in our real world and I always appreciate that. This author is very brave in putting these words on the page. I have seen some of the negative reaction but I applaud her because something like this happened somewhere yesterday, is happening right now, and will happen tomorrow.
Yes, I recommend this one wholeheartedly!
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