Review: Wonderland by Jennifer Hillier
Fans of Chelsea Cain and Lisa Gardner will devour this edgy thriller about the gruesome secrets hidden beneath a small-town amusement park. From the author of Creep, Freak, and The Butcher, Jennifer Hillier’s “fine knack for creating hideous killers” (Booklist) is vividly on display.
Welcome to Wonderland. By day, it’s a magical place boasting a certain retro charm. Excited children, hands sticky with cotton candy, run frenetically from the Giant Octopus ride to the Spinning Sombrero, while the tinkling carnival music of the giant Wonder Wheel—the oldest Ferris wheel in the Pacific Northwest—fills the air. But before daybreak, an eerie feeling descends. Maybe it’s the Clown Museum, home to creepy wax replicas of movie stars and a massive collection of antique porcelain dolls. Or maybe it’s the terrifyingly real House of Horrors. Or…maybe it’s the dead, decaying body left in the midway for all the Wonder Workers to see.
Vanessa Castro’s first day as deputy police chief of Seaside, Washington, is off to a bang. The unidentifiable homeless man rotting inside the tiny town’s main tourist attraction is strange enough, but now a teenage employee—whose defiant picture at the top of the Wonder Wheel went viral that same morning—is missing. As the clues in those seemingly disparate crimes lead her down a mysterious shared path of missing persons that goes back decades, she suspects the seedy rumors surrounding the amusement park’s dark history might just be true. She moved to Seaside to escape her own scandalous past, but has she brought her family to the center of an insidious killer’s twisted game? Acclaimed author Jennifer Hillier’s bone-chilling thriller is masterful and fast-paced, hurtling toward a shocking, bloody conclusion.
This is one of those books where you expect for the hair on your arms and the back of your neck to stand at attention, just from the cover alone. I mean, it’s a creepy clown for goodness sakes. What could be more hair-raising than that? Well, the book itself, of coarse.
I couldn’t seem to get enough of this story. It was like I was in a trance. I had to know what was going on. Who was who? Who was psycho and who wasn’t? Who was going to get their happy ending and who would end up dead? I kept going from page to page wanting to know just how the book would end!
In this story, everyone is connected one way or another…. then in the end, all connected by this huge, creepy amusement park. Whether they were current employees, their family member was an employee at some point or they themselves were an employee at some point. This whole town and its inhabitants is directly linked to this one amusement park. An amusement park with a haunting past or two and missing boys from years past to present. Doesn’t that sound like a winner? I sure think so.
I was drawn into the book from the first page. Although, confused for a while, I was sucked in to this cult-like park wanting to figure it out all at once instead of piece by piece. I wasn’t sure what was up or what was down. The park alone seemed like it had a hold on everyone around it, almost like a cult. That’s the best way to describe the entire town. It’s like the park was their leader and they were its loyal followers. Always turning their backs when weird things happened. Never questioning anything that would happen at the park. And the missing boys? Well, no one seemed to care about or acknowledge.
Vanessa is brought in as the new assistant chief of the local police department. She seems to be the only one who cares about the most recent boys that have disappeared… she eventually figures out there are more related disappearances than anyone has ever been willing to acknowledge. With all of the mystery and her fourteen-year old daughter now working at the park, she is going against the clock to figure it all out.
I really liked the writing in this book. The characters were easy to get to know and connect with from the very start. They really didn’t need to be described in any form of lengthy detail. They were who they were. The build-up in this story was ever-climbing and had me on the edge of my seat. The climax…. oh that climax. Almost perfect. I sat there with my jaw open and heart pounding. I definitely plan to check out more books by this author, as this was my first by her. Kudos to you Jennifer, I thoroughly enjoyed this book!