Caroline Kepnes introduced readers to her dynamic character, anti-hero Joe Goldberg in her 2014 debut, “You”, in which Goldberg fell in love with a woman and on his journey to make that woman his girlfriend, left a trail of bodies.
Kepnes’ sophomore novel, “Hidden Bodies,” tracks Joe in his continuing quest for love while challenging the reader to deeply reflect on their own morals. The novel opens up as Joe stalks his ex-girlfriend from New York City to Los Angeles and adds a few bodies to his kill count in the City of Angels. Goldberg is thoughtful in his selection of victims, from suitors of his former flames to the women themselves – until he finds himself immersed in a world of the rich and famous. Goldberg discovers that his unquenchable thirst for ending the lives of those that have wronged him will be harder to keep quiet as he starts a new relationship with a woman named Love.
The book is written from the view of an almost-sympathetic killer, engulfing the reader in his every thought, from how he favors his guacamole tasting to his justification on taking a life. Kepnes created her main character to be so lively and sharp, I repeatedly found myself asking, ‘Should I feel guilty for loving this serial killer?’ The reality of relating to a fictitious killer that is both mindful and witty tests the boundaries of the readers’ morals and views on revenge. From the relevant social references of Uber and Coachella to Joe’s increasingly narcissistic personality, the transition from New York City to Los Angeles is seamless and kept me up late into the night turning each page.
In New York City, Goldberg was the manager of a bookstore, trying to leave his murderous tendencies in the past when in walked the beautiful Amy Adam. Goldberg narrated, ‘I buy violets for Amy. Not roses. Roses are for people who did something wrong. I have done everything right this time around. I’m a good boyfriend. I chose well-’ I’ll never look at flowers the same way. After a previous relationship ended with a suspicious murder, Joe thought he had finally found his ideal partner in life. After a whirlwind fling, Goldberg found himself tracking Amy to California, unbeknownst to her.
Finding himself surrounded by narcissistic friends hungry for fame, Joe is able to go about his days as he pleases – hunting Amy. During the pursuit of Amy, Joe stumbles upon a writer, producer, actress and trust fund baby named Love. Love is immediately infatuated with Joe’s mysterious demeanor and his hunt for Amy is halted while he and Love fall into exactly what he has been searching for – love.
As the reader, my concern for Love’s safety slowly diminished as I realized that Love comes with her own set of problems and might be just as sinister as her new beau. Joe thinks that he might have left his killing past behind him after falling for Love but Joe can’t stop worrying about the DNA evidence he left behind at the scene of his ex-girlfriend’s murder. Joe wants to be with Love forever but if the hidden bodies from his past keep resurfacing, he may not have a choice and turn back to murderous habits. After reading this book in record time I found myself craving more of Joe Goldberg and a yearning to know what Caroline Kepnes has planned next for her anti-hero.