A PLACE TO HIDE is a surprisingly robust Gremlins homage that shows the beginning of some of Strange Matter's strengths. The book revolves around Trey Porter and his dealings with a centuries-old secret that's been hiding in the Fairfield woods. The name of the book is well-chosen, as the story is continually moved forward by characters hiding from or hiding ....things... away from others.
What I enjoy most about this book is it's one of the first books I can remember where the plot evolves and changes well over the course of the story. There's a dynamic to it that Engle and Barnes hit well. As Trey learns more information, his plans and decisions change a great deal, more than in most books I remember from that time. The subplot revolving around the bully Waylon Burst is also fun to read because it shows how well the characters are fleshed out. People change sides and objectives in logical ways.
In a lot of ways though, this book works best when read in conjunction with the 'sequel', DOORWAY TO DOOM. Even though we never see the bridging event at the end of A PLACE TO HIDE, the effects are well-portrayed in the next installment. It's also interesting how the story comes full circle. The person you most expect to be able to deal with the ending events of the book doesn't quite make the cut. As I mentioned earlier, the monsters here pay homage to Gremlins, especially in some of the descriptions of their appearance and in their reaction to their weakness. But their origins and motivations keep it from being anything enjoyable.
One thing I feel the author could have touched on more is the perspectives of both Trey's friends and the Terrible Trio as they were being chased by the creatures. This is something that the authors prove having as a great strength in DOORWAY TO DOOM--the switching of narratives and perspective to diversify the story. But considering how early this book is in the series, it's understandable. If you're interested in finding out more about The Terrible Trio or the fate of Waylon Burst's, I recommend DOORWAY TO DOOM.
I give A PLACE TO HIDE a 4 out of 5.