Monday, March 27, 2023

Wonderland by Jennifer Hillier

"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.

Paperback, 419 pages
First published October 5, 2015
by Gallery Books

Audiobook, 11 hours 35 minutes
Narrator: Eunice Wong
by Macmillian Audio
4.5/5 stars

Do not be intimidated by the cover of this book. Although it gives off Stephen King vibes, it is not a horror story. Instead, it is a captivating thriller that takes place in an amusement park.

Jennifer Hillier's Wonderland was first published in 2015 (it is also her debut), but a new paperback version and audiobook will be released next month. I've had the physical copy on my shelf for some time, but I jumped at the opportunity to listen to the audiobook, narrated by Eunice Wong. The audiobook is just shy of 12 hours, and Wong did an excellent job as the narrator.

The story is told from multiple points of view.  One being Vanessa Castro the new deputy chief of police in the small town of Seaside in Washington State. The book starts off quickly with the discovery of a body in Wonderland, the local amusement park. Vanessa moved to the town for a fresh start, but she quickly finds herself embroiled in a murder investigation that progresses to much more.

One of the things I enjoyed about this book was the setting.  It was atmospheric with the amusement park and its dark history. The mystery deepens as Vanessa uncovers leads and makes gruesome discoveries. The book features a large cast of characters, ranging from friendly to unreliable. At times, I wished I had kept notes to keep track of who was who.

Wonderland is a story of murder, secrets, and a parent's worst nightmare. It was fast paced and suspenseful. A well-written debut and highly entertaining.

I highly recommend the audiobook, as it allows you to multitask while enjoying the story.

My thanks to McMillan Audio and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC audiobook in exchange for an honest review.

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