If I Disappear by Eliza Jane Brazier
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Sera is obsessed with a true crime podcast about missing women, young unattached women who disappear in Northern California. She’s the (now trite) unreliable narrator of the story. She’s a mess, after a divorce and having lost a child, the obsession is her life. Rachel, the podcaster, inexplicably stops podcasting and Sera is determined to find out why. She is convinced Rachel has been killed. She heads to Rachel’s remote ranch off the Klamath River where Rachel’s parents own a summer riding ranch for tourists. Everyone up there is weird and something clearly is not right, but she’s the outsider stirring up trouble among the hostile locals.
I was slow to get into this story. It is told in the first person, which is not unusual, but written as though Sera is talking to the missing Rachel, e.g., “I can’t believe you never told me. All this time you were trying to save others.” I’ll give it style points for originality, but I found it off-putting at first. The author has a knack for ratcheting up the suspense as the various characters shift in and out of the role of chief suspect. Is there even a crime? No one there has reported one. Her parents tell Sera she was killed by a gang, but everyone else says she just took off to get away from her crazy family. Sera’s parents hate and distrust the local townspeople and the feeling is mutual. None of the characters are likeable and there’s not a lot of meat to this story, but the answer as to what happened to Rachel (and possibly those missing victims in the podcast) is well hidden until the very end. I’d give it three and half stars if I could, but I’ll squeeze out four.