The Children on the Hill

The Children on the Hill

by Jennifer McMahon

Narrated by Erin Moon

Jennifer McMahon

Unabridged — 10 hours, 44 minutes

The Children on the Hill

The Children on the Hill

by Jennifer McMahon

Narrated by Erin Moon

Jennifer McMahon

Unabridged — 10 hours, 44 minutes

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From the New York Times bestselling author of The Drowning Kind comes a genre-defying novel, inspired by Mary Shelley's masterpiece Frankenstein, that brilliantly explores the eerie mysteries of childhood and the evils perpetrated by the monsters among us.

1978: At her renowned treatment center in picturesque Vermont, the brilliant psychiatrist, Dr. Helen Hildreth, is acclaimed for her compassionate work with the mentally ill. But when she's home with her cherished grandchildren, Vi and Eric, she's just Gran-teaching them how to take care of their pets, preparing them home-cooked meals, providing them with care and attention and love.

Then one day Gran brings home a child to stay with the family. Iris-silent, hollow-eyed, skittish, and feral-does not behave like a normal girl.

Still, Violet is thrilled to have a new playmate. She and Eric invite Iris to join their Monster Club, where they dream up ways to defeat all manner of monsters. Before long, Iris begins to come out of her shell. She and Vi and Eric do everything together: ride their bicycles, go to the drive-in, meet at their clubhouse in secret to hunt monsters. Because, as Vi explains, monsters are everywhere.

2019: Lizzy Shelley, the host of the popular podcast Monsters Among Us, is traveling to Vermont, where a young girl has been abducted, and a monster sighting has the town in an uproar. She's determined to hunt it down, because Lizzy knows better than anyone that monsters are real-and one of them is her very own sister.

“A must for psychological thriller fans” (Publishers Weekly, starred review), The Children on the Hill takes us on a breathless journey to face the primal fears that lurk within us all.

Editorial Reviews

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

Publishers Weekly

★ 02/07/2022

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"

Library Journal


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.

Kirkus Reviews

★ 2022-03-02
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.

Product Details

BN ID: 2940173268273
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: 04/26/2022
Edition description: Unabridged

Read an Excerpt

The Monster: August 15, 2019 The Monster August 15, 2019
HER SMELL SENDS me tumbling back through time to before.

Before I knew the truth.

It’s intoxicating, this girl’s scent. She smells sweet with just a touch of something tangy and sharp, like a penny held on your tongue.

I can smell the grape slushy she had this afternoon, the cigarettes she’s been sneaking, the faint trace of last night’s vodka (pilfered from her daddy’s secret bottle kept down in the boathouse—I’ve watched them both sneak out to take sips from it).

She smells dangerous and alive.

And I love her walk—the way each step is a bounce like she’s got springs at the bottoms of her feet. Like if she bounces high enough, she’ll go all the way up to the moon.

The moon.

Don’t look at the moon, full and swollen, big and bright.

Wrong monster. I am no werewolf.

Though I tried to be once.

Not long after my sister and I saw The Wolf Man together, we found a book on werewolves with a spell in it for turning into one.

“I think we should do it,” my sister said.

“No way,” I told her.

“Don’t you want to know what it feels like to change?” she asked.

We sneaked out into the woods at midnight, did a spell under the full moon, cut our thumbs, drank a potion, burned a candle, and she was right—it was an exquisite thrill, imagining that we were turning into something so much more than ourselves. We ran naked and howling through the trees, pretending ferns were wolfsbane and eating them up.

We thought we might become the real thing, not like Lon Chaney Jr., with the wigs and rubber snout and yak hair glued to his face (my sister and I read that in a book too—“poor yaks,” we said, giggling, guffawing about how bad that hair must have smelled). When nothing happened that night, we were so disappointed. When we didn’t sprout fur and fangs or lose our minds at the sight of the moon. When we went back home and swore to never speak of what we’d done as we pulled on our pajamas and crawled into our beds, still human girls.

“Can you guess what I am?” I ask the girl now. I don’t mean to. The words just come shooting out like sparks popping up from a fire.

“Uh,” she says, looking at me all strange. “I don’t know. A ghost? Someone who was once a human bean?” And that’s just how she says it. Bean. Like we’re all just baked beans in a pot, or maybe bright multicolored jelly beans, each a different flavor.

I’d be licorice. The black ones that get left at the bottom of the bag. The ones no one can stand the taste of.

I shift from one foot to the other, bits of my disguise clanking, rattling, the hair from the tangled wig I wear falling into my eyes.

I love this girl so much right now. All that she is. All that I will never be. All that I can never have.

And mostly, what I love is knowing what’s coming next: knowing that I will change her as I’ve changed so many others.

I am going to save this girl.

“When do I get my wish?” she asks now.

“Soon,” I say, smiling.

I am a giver of wishes.

A miracle worker.

I can give this girl what she most desires, but she isn’t even aware of her own desires.

I can’t wait to show her.

“So, do you want to play a game or something?” she asks.

“Yes,” I say, practically shouting. Yes, oh yes, oh yes! This is my favorite question, my favorite thing! I know games. I play them well.

“Truth or dare?” she asks.

“If you wish. But I have to warn you, I’ll know if you’re lying.”

She shrugs, tugs at her triple-pierced right earlobe, squints at me through all her layers of black goth makeup; a good girl trying so hard to look bad. “Nah. Let’s play tag,” she says, and this surprises me. She seems too old for such games. “My house is safety. You’re it.” Already running, she slaps my arm so hard it stings.

I laugh. I can’t help it. It’s nerves. It’s the thrill. There’s no way this girl, with her stick-thin legs and cigarette smoke–choked lungs, can outrun me.

I am strong. I am fast. I have trained my whole life for these moments.

I’m running, running, running, chasing this beautiful girl in the black hoodie, her blond hair with bright-purple tips flying out behind her like a flag from a country no one’s ever heard of. A girl so full of possibility, and she doesn’t even know it. She’s running, she’s squealing, thinking she’s going to make it back to safety, back to the bright lights of her little cabin that are just now coming into view through the trees (only bright because of the low hum of the generator out back, no power lines way out here). Thinking she’s actually going to make it home, back to her parents (whom she hates) and her warm bed with the flannel sheets, back to her old dog, Dusty, who growls whenever he catches my scent—he knows what I am.

I have weeds woven into my hair. I am covered in a dress of bones, sticks, cattail stalks, old fishing line and bobbers. I am my own wind chime, rattling as I run. I smell like the lake, like rot and ruin and damp forgotten things.

I can easily overtake this girl. But I let her stay ahead. I let her hold on to the fantasy of returning to her old life. I watch her silhouette bounding through the trees, flying, floating.

And just like that, I’m a kid again, chasing my sister, pretending to be some movie monster (I’m the Wolf Man, I’m Dracula, I’m the Phantom of the motherfucking Opera) but I was never fast enough to catch her.

But I’m going to catch this girl now.

And I’m a real monster now. Not just pretend.

I’m going to catch this girl now because I never could catch my sister.

Here it is, forty years later, and still it’s always her I’m chasing.

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