Library Journal - Audio
Lizzy Shelley literally wrote the book on monster hunting, but her professional success has never brought personal solace. After uncovering a pattern in the disappearances of troubled young women, she may have finally found the monster she's spent a lifetime hunting: her sister. Their story began 40 years prior, on the grounds of a prestigious psychiatric facility in Vermont. Their Gran, the Inn's director, is considered by many to be a miracle worker, when in truth she is a modern Dr. Frankenstein. McMahon's (The Winter People) chilling tale explores who is more monstrous, the creatures or their creator? Just as the Inn's basement door hides the horrors within, narrator Moon's even tone and sedate pace belie McMahon's sinister story line. Moon artfully gives each character a unique voice. Parallel narratives, interspersed with book excerpts both by and about Lizzy's family, create a compelling roller coaster that listeners will be unable to disembark from until hearing the final disturbing details. VERDICT Will appeal to listeners seeking a spine-tingling blend of psychological suspense and horror; recommended for fans of Jennifer Fawcett, Catriona Ward, and Josh Malerman.—Lauren Hackert
Two alternating story lines set more than 40 years apart smoothly intersect, doling out clues about fragile childhood memories, in this stellar take on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein from bestseller McMahon (The Drowning Kind). In 1978, Violet “Vi” Hildreth and her brother, Eric, live with their Gran, acclaimed psychiatrist Helen Hildreth, in the shadow of Vermont’s Hillside Inn, which at the time “was widely considered one of the best private psychiatric institutions in New England.” The creep factor ramps up as rumors of violent patients and experiments at the Hillside Inn fuel Vi and Eric’s fascination with monsters. The pair are soon hunting for werewolves, vampires, and shape-shifters. They’re thrilled when Gran brings home a new playmate, the silent, fearful Iris, who joins them in their efforts to fight monsters. Then their lives take a tragic turn. In 2019, Vi, now known as Lizzy Shelley, travels the country as the host of mega-popular podcast Monsters Among Us. The suspense builds when she returns to Vermont to investigate a possible link between a missing girl and a monster sighting. McMahon keeps the reader wondering how much is real and how much is imagined. This is a must for psychological thriller fans. Agent: Daniel Lazar, Writers House. (Apr.)
From the Publisher
[A] stellar take on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein . . . McMahon keeps the reader wondering how much is real and how much is imagined. This is a must for psychological thriller fans.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“McMahon succeeds admirably in building real chills and a surprising twist, offering a satisfying addition to the Frankenstein-inspired oeuvre. Mary Shelley would give it two thumbs up.” —Kirkus (starred review)
“This modern take on Frankenstein has a delicious twist at the end. This novel is an all-nighter!” —LibraryReads, "April 2022 Hall of Fame"
“In a tightrope’s walk of suspense, The Children on the Hill asks the reader to consider the precarious nature of memory and the definition of the word ‘monster.’” —WBUR ARTery, "Spring Books Guide"
“I always show up for Jennifer McMahon. Her storytelling is tried and true. I don't want to miss her unique brand of suspense.” —LitReactor, "2022 Horror Your Do Not Want to Miss"
In 1978 Vermont, Dr. Helen Hildreth devotes herself to patients with mental health issues and to grandchildren Vi and Eric, who are intrigued when their grandmother brings home troubled young Iris to stay with the family. Soon, Vi invites Iris to join the siblings' Monster Club, explaining that there are monsters among us. Decades later, Lizzy Shelley, host of the podcast Monsters Among Us, travels to Vermont to cover a girl's abduction with the knowledge that monsters are indeed real—her sister is one. Interesting to see how these stories connect. A Frankenstein redo by the New York Times best-selling author of The Drowning Kind; with a 100,000-copy first printing.
Inspired by Frankenstein, McMahon presents a number of “monsters” linked to a psychiatric hospital in the 1970s—and one contemporary monster hunter who must confront her past.
In 1978, Vi and Eric live with their grandmother Dr. Helen Hildreth on the grounds of the Hillside Inn, a private hospital in Vermont that specializes in “a holistic, humanistic approach” to healing the mentally ill. When Dr. Hildreth brings home a young patient named Iris, the children are both fascinated and repelled by her—especially the raised scars she hides under a hat. Iris has clearly survived some great trauma, and Vi agrees to help her grandmother by “treat[ing] [Iris] like a sister” and reporting on anything the girl reveals about her past. A curious child, Vi begins to wonder whether Iris might be the mysterious “Patient S” her grandmother has written about in secret case notes. Forty years later, Lizzy Shelley, a researcher and podcaster who has recently entered the public eye by consulting on the TV show Monsters Among Us, follows a lead that brings her close to a monster she’s been seeking for some time, a monster that abducts young girls while hiding behind local legends, a monster who is leading her back to Vermont and the Hillside Inn. Like Dr. Frankenstein's infamous creation, the novel is a patchwork of narrative voices and styles, combining Vi, Eric, Iris, and Helen’s story in 1978; Lizzy’s search in 2019; excerpts from a tell-all book, The True Story of the Hillside Inn; excerpts from The Book of Monsters, created by the children in 1978; and the voice of the Monster herself. Though the question asked is not a new one—“Who is the real monster? The creature being made, or the one creating it?”—McMahon succeeds admirably in building real chills and a surprising twist, offering a satisfying addition to the Frankenstein-inspired oeuvre.
Mary Shelley would give it two thumbs up.