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The Hidden Paperback – 7 Jan 2010

16 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber (7 Jan. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571218393
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571218394
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 3.1 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 660,310 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


A beautifully paced thriller (Observer)

A wonderful novel (Daily Telegraph)

An elaborate mystery along the lines of The Magus or The Secret History, and a sustained meditation on the special ethics of terrorism in ancient and modern times (Guardian)

Resonant with classical myth, this is a rich, rewarding story of the outsider - the existential loner searching for his place in the world (Daily Mail)

The end is a dark epiphany, truly gripping, touching on anarchy, unearthing a righteous violence that reverberates into a moment that is momentous, cinematic and brimming with horror (The Times) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.


one of the finest novels written so far about this, our age of terror. Hill doesn't write about al-Qaida v America or Islam v the west, but about something altogether subtler and more profound - extremism itself. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Antenna TOP 100 REVIEWER on 26 Aug. 2009
Format: Paperback
Hill's prose is unusual, striking and memorable - like poetry, some passages merit rereading. They convey with power and strong visual imagery- the feel and appearance of the landscapes of Greece. I also learned quite a few new words - did you know that "laniary" means canine and "ophidian" indicates "snake" - an apt description for one of the characters? Far from being dull, the inclusion of the anti-hero Ben's "notes for a thesis" are interesting and informative - reminding me of the Spartans' harsh, pragmatic approach to life, and evoking parallels with modern issues of fundamentalism, eugenics and the fanaticism of idealistic groups and cults. The experience of taking part in a dig is described well, again with some interesting insights, such as the fine line between the excitement of a valuable find, and the avaricious desire to possess and profit from it. Some of the dialogue is quite effective in capturing the personalities of the key characters, and their relationships.

On the downside, I agree with those who find the plot a little lacking. Certain critical events seem to happen abruptly, without the potential build up which increase both the tension and their plausibility. Ben seems to make sudden leaps of understanding on evidence which escaped me until then - although I quite enjoy being made "to work" as a reader, and not having everything spelt out too baldly. The final climax is not as shocking as other reviewers have led me to expect. The lack of inverted commas and "he said, she said" etc makes some of the dialogue hard to follow. Even after rereading some passages several times, I was unable to deduce who said what - and some observations seem very obscure. This is at times an unhelpful distraction.

Also, the characters are not developed very fully.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By ericmitford on 16 Jan. 2009
Format: Paperback
Ben Mercer, a young archaeologist fleeing his estranged family in Oxford, finds his way to Athens and thence to Sparta, Athens' nemesis in the 5th Century BC. Confused and lonely, he insinuates himself into a team digging the site of ancient Sparta, an austere and introverted society whose warrior elite practised a form of eugenics by exposing unwanted children and for three centuries managed to keep subdued huge numbers of local people through terror.

Ben desperately wants to feel he belongs somewhere, to be part of the multi-national group of archaeologists, but is the dig all that it seems? As he gradually melts their hostility towards him, and begins a relationship with one of the women on the dig, one is led to wonder whether there is something behind their apparent willingness to admit him to their number. Worryingly, ritual appears to be as important to the modern-day team as to the ancients...

My first encounter with Tobias Hill was his novel `Underground', a smart thriller with a strong sense of place. In his latest novel, Hill similarly ratchets up the tension as the reader tries to work out what is really going on. Aspects of the story, and particularly its dark tones and exploration of the tribal instinct, are reminiscent of Donna Tartt's `The Secret History'. But this is better.

For Tobias Hill is also a poet and what really sets this book apart are his beautiful descriptions of the mountainous landscapes and Greek winter, and the undercutting of any tourist's-eye view of Greece by reference to its troubled and unresolved recent political history. And if characterisation, admittedly of some pretty unpleasant people, sometimes loses out, the romantic moments are entirely convincing and the ending packs a satisfying punch.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Quicksilver TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 29 Mar. 2010
Format: Paperback
'The Hidden' is a curious novel. Packaged as an 'age of terror' thriller, it manages to be both less and more than it appears. Less, because the plot is slow with little action, more because the writing is stunning. Hill delivers a multi-layered novel that resonates long after completion.

Dr Ben Mercer is an archaeologist, who has fled to Greece, to escape the implosion of his marriage. Leaving his ex-wife and daughter behind, he is searching for something that will redefine his life, but has little clue as to what that might be. A chance encounter with an old Oxford colleague, sets Ben on a path that will eventually lead to the novel's powerful conclusion.

Most of 'The Hidden' takes place in and around an archaeological dig site - the remains ancient Sparta. Ben's arrival on the dig team, is largely unwelcome, and he immediately finds himself an outsider. The novel is very slow paced. The reader is given the sense sinister goings-on, but Hill only offers glimpses of what they might be. So slight are the references to anything untoward, I have to wonder that if the cover had been all white, with no blurb, whether I would have noticed them at all. It is of course impossible to know.

The characters are only drawn in broad lines, something that has been criticised in other reviews here, but I think this approach works. Ben is not interested in the individuals, but craves acceptance into the group. With his life shattered, he is desperate to belong somewhere. The depiction of the clique, and its treatment of outsiders is spot on. Hill is an economical writer, no word is wasted, yet he manages to draw very vivid pictures of Ben's environment and state of mind.
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