‘Hollow’ Treads Familiar Ground, but Still Spooks

The Hollow Places made it onto my TBR the instant I knew it existed, which was, like, two weeks ago. I read T. Kingfisher’s The Twisted Ones soon after it came out last year and it gave me the willies, the creeps, and the heebie-jeebies, and I loved every minute of it.

I will never think of baby dolls or deer the same way again.

In The Hollow Places, 34-year-old Kara limps back to her uncle’s oddity museum after being blindsided by her husband divorcing her. She settles back into the same bedroom she occupied while visiting summers as a child, trying to aggressively fill her heart with her freelance graphic design jobs and cataloguing the dusty expanse of the shop. Between taxidermized endangered species, weird carvings, and hundreds of pig skulls, she has her work cut out for her. When her uncle has to get knee surgery, it’s up to Kara to run the museum with just the museum’s cat and the owner of the coffee shop next door, Simon.

 The odd events start small: a hole punched in a wall, things out of place. But as Kara and Simon try to fix the wall, they discover a passageway behind it, and beyond that, a bunker. And beyond that is the titular hollow places—an expanse of willow-infested islands and water and hundreds of bunkers just like the one found in the museum’s hidden passage, and all of it feels wrong, wrong, wrong. They explore, get lost, and manage to find their bunker and the way back home, but that’s hardly the end. Something is searching for them, and Kara and Simon have to figure out what it is before it finds them.

I figured out the mystery basically in the first act, but if I wanted a mystery I’d read Tana French. I wanted to be scared and I was.

I utterly devoured The Hollow Places, the same way I did The Twisted Ones. Actually, there were a lot of similar elements between them, including:

  • Main character is a witty single woman in her 30s who is a freelance creative
  • Pet that comforts and causes trouble
  • Dusty, creepy stuff all over the place
  • Portal to a strange world filled with strange creatures following strange agenda
  • Explanations or hints written by a more knowledgeable someone who has died
  • Spending lots of time in a coffee shop

Some of these similarities I noticed at the time, while others only occurred to me in retrospect, but the point is that it all felt veeerrryy familiar. Not to the point that The Hollow Places felt like it came from the same paint-by-numbers book as The Twisted Ones, nor to such a degree that I felt like the two were alternate drafts of the same story, but definitely in a way that I noticed while reading. It’s a little surprising that no one on the publishing end was all, “hold up, maybe we should put a little more space between these” or something.

But as I said, I loved The Twisted Ones and I wanted to plunge back into that same kind of creepy world. Maybe I didn’t mean that as literally as I got it here, but I’m not mad. Not every book has to plow new ground. Sometimes it’s fun to play in the already-plowed dirt.

The Hollow Places is a good, spooky book on its own. The Twisted Ones is a good, spooky book on its own. And if you like one, you’re sure to like the other, too.

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