This month sees the publication of The Book Of Hidden Things, the first English novel by Francesco Dimitri, an author considered to be one of Italy’s finest fantasy writers. This, alongside the intriguing title and cover art drew me to this story, and I was pleased to have the chance to read a review copy.
The events of this story take place in Puglia, a small town in Southern Italy in which we meet a group of four friends. Art, Fabio, Tony and Mauro have been friends since school and have a pact to meet up every year in the town they grew up together in. However, a day arrives in which Art does not show up. And the fact that Art is considered the leader of the group, the one who was most keen to maintain the pact, means that his absence raises alarm bells amongst his friends. With their friend missing they set out to find the truth, and in doing so get to the bottom of why Art did not show up, and where he is. This makes for an intriguing read which makes you want to read on and get to the bottom of the mystery, and when the friends discover a book written by Art, ‘The Book of Hidden Things’, their story becomes all the more curious…
The premise of this book is an interesting one, and I liked the idea of a mysterious book holding the secrets to Art’s disappearance. The narrative alternates between the perspectives of Fabio, Tony, and Mauro, and I liked being able to see the situation unfold through multiple view points. This also helped build up a picture of the friendship between the characters, and how the relationships between them have changed through the years. And as the group search for answers in the present day, there is also time to reflect on their past. I was interested to see how Art’s story develops, and alongside his friends we uncover unusual things about Art’s recent behaviour, including his risky business farming drugs in a country controlled by the mafia, as well as the rumours that he was able to cure a girl from a life threatening illness. This journey to find the truth made for an interesting read, with a mixture of fantastical elements alongside a story which explores the strength of friendship, and about growing up. There were a couple of specific moments in the book that I found uncomfortable to read from the perspective of an animal lover, but aside from this I thought this was an interesting story which leaves you to question what is truth, and what is fiction.
The Book Of Hidden Things was published on 3rd July 2018 by Titan Books, with thanks to the publisher for providing a proof copy for review.