If I Disappear

I’m not a huge mystery novel reader. Now, I have nothing against the genre and enjoy it when I do read it, it’s just not my go-to. But last year, I was bumming around my local Barnes & Noble and saw the rather striking cover to Eliza Jane Brazier’s novel about a woman who goes looking for the recently disappeared host of her favorite true crime podcast. It sounded like a great premise, there was a buy one, get one sale going on, so I grabbed it. It sat on my pile until a couple of weeks ago when, after reading four different books about people hiking, I decided on a change of pace.

So the book is about Sera, a fan of a true crime podcast who decides to go looking for its host, Rachel, when she seems to disappear off the face of the earth. The show stops updating and there’s nothing from her other avenues of communication. It’s all radio silence. Sera, whose life is in shambles after a divorce and whom has fallen into a deep depression during the past year where all she does is listen to this podcast over and over again, decides to head up to the small town where Rachel lives and find work with her parents on their ranch. Then her investigation begins in earnest–she asks around town, talks to Rachel’s friends, and sneaks around looking for clues as to where Rachel could have run off to (or if she’s even still alive).

I won’t offer too much about the plot beyond that because it is pretty interesting, especially after it gets going. Brazier writes the story from Sera’s point of view but uses a second-person voice, so it’s as if Sera is talking to Rachel. Sera’s also incredibly flawed and at times unreliable, which worked to draw me in so that I could try and figure out what had happened. That also worked to frustrated me, as she had a tendency to make terrible decisions in her investigating, like asking too many deep questions too quickly or being too persistent about some things. At the same time, it was pretty realistic if you ask me; internet detectives think they’re intelligent and crafty but are more likely to make real tactical errors when confronting the people who are suspects or knew the victims.

But then the story gets closer to its ending and there are a couple of twists where I’m like … wait, what? Plus, it ends abruptly, on the verge of something big happening, although with a statement from Sera that supposed to show how much stronger she is. But that’s unsatisfying and kind of annoying, especially since it feels a bit unearned. Brazier’s a compelling writer, don’t get me wrong, but a lot of the characters felt like stock characters or tropes and even Sera’s motivation for getting so obsessed with Rachel and staying on the ranch when things got weirder and weirder wasn’t fleshed out enough. She was getting there, but something was always missing and it seemed like Brazier was writing the book for the ending, not caring about what she really built up to that because so much of it was being thrown out the window.

In the end, it’s not a terrible book, and a decent plane/vacation read. But not one for permanence on my bookshelf.

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