Watch Me Disappear, by Janelle Brown

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Janelle Brown, Random House Publishing Group and Spiegel & Grau for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Turning to a new author, I wanted to see what Janelle Brown had to offer in this interesting story that explores the family unit and its dynamic when a significant piece is missing. After Sybilla ‘Billie’ Flanagan goes missing during a solo hike, her immediate family is left to wonder what happen, while never giving up hope. Billie’s husband, Jonathan, is left to wonder about his wife, entering a state of numbness as he goes through the motions of a memorial when she is seemingly dead. Adding to his confusion, Jonathan must juggle his teenage daughter, Olive, who is determined not to shut the door on her mother, wondering if she will walk through the door at any moment. When Olive begins having some visions of her mother, she holds out that Billie is alive and just away from them, either by choice or having been kidnapped. This lights a fire under Jonathan, who has been filling his time writing a memoir of life with Billie Flanagan. When Billie finds some information about Billie on her computer, this opens new potential pathways that go back three decades and the breadcrumbs that Jonathan follows leads him to believe this might have been something orchestrated. However, there is nothing to substantiate any of this, save for a gut feeling and a daughter whose focussed seems stronger than ever. Where is Billie Flanagan and was her disappearance something that had been in the works long before that hiking adventure? Brown offers up an interesting spin on a much-used plot, allowing readers to weigh the strength of a family’s determination to find what belongs to them. An interesting read for those seeking something more emotion-based than a thriller or crime story.

This is the first piece of Brown’s work that I have tried, which has left me a little on the fence. I was expecting a high-powered mystery, with characters that sought truth and sifted through lies. Brown works hard to create these characters: the lost and drifting Jonathan, his eager and determined Olive who is suffering the loss and her teenage epiphany, and the ever-elusive Billie, who comes to life in the stories that are told and through the other two characters. Brown serves to deliver the Billie persona through the ever-winding memoir on which Jonathan has been working and the increasingly vivid images that Olive develops. With a story that could have delved deep into mystery, Brown presents something that is more worthy of an emotional journey and one in which all the characters find and lose themselves at the same time. I found myself begging to find something on which I could grasp during the first portion, but by the end, the twists had me highly impressed as the narrative took me in directions I was not sure I would have originally liked. A journey full of mystery after all!

Kudos, Madam Brown for an great book. I think I may come back to see what else you have to offer sooner than later.