Lori Roy is the first woman to win both the Best First Novel and Best Novel Edgar Awards – for Bent Road and Let Me Die in His Footsteps respectively. Until She Comes Home, her second novel, was also a finalist for the Best Novel Edgar Award. Her newest Southern Gothic suspense novel, The Disappearing, seems likely to follow this same trajectory. Maintaining that high level of quality might seem daunting, but Lori Roy makes it look easy. Make no mistake about it, The Disappearing is one of the best novels of the year.
In describing the repairs to an antique wooden floor late in the novel, Lori Roy writes “[a] person could never tell where the old ends and the new begins” and this resonates as a perfect theme for The Disappearing as a whole. So much of what is happening in the novel’s present day is haunted and influenced by actions and attitudes of the past – to such an extent that it becomes difficult to separate the two.
The Disappearing is the story of the Fielding family. Three generations of women from this family act as our guide through the painful history and troubled present of this once venerable family who now elicits disdain and aversion from their Florida community. Readers meet Lane, who briefly escaped her hometown, started her own family, and now finds herself back where she began after a bitter breakup. Lane’s mother, Erma – the matriarch of this clan, thrills at having her child (and grandchildren) home again, while fearing the ramifications of that decision. Lastly, Lane’s youngest daughter, Talley, recounts her observations from her place of innocence and discovery.
The difficulties for the Fielding family can be traced back to Lane’s youth, when one summer she was abducted by a troubled boy who resided in the reform school for which her father acted as director. Around the same time, several local blonde-haired and blue-eyed girls also went missing – a tragic part of the town’s history. Once Lane left town, she chose to stop speaking of her past, not even telling her daughters about what happened to her back when she was a child.
Now, Lane’s oldest daughter, Annalee, and another local girl have gone missing and the entire town fears that the past has come back to haunt the Fielding family. Because in addition to being a town where girls disappear, Waddell, Florida is also known as the place from which boys run away. In the years since the reform school was closed down, Neil Fielding has been accused of mistreating many of the boys under his care and some townsfolk want the local gravesite examined more thoroughly after external examination hints at more bodies than gravestones.
Readers are granted a fourth point-of-view: that of local church handyman, Daryl. His sections are set in the near past, in the days leading up to these latest disappearances. How the narratives of these four sections intertwine is a master-class in structure. Even the flashbacks to the distant past are so effortlessly integrated within the present day activity that readers will gladly relinquish control to Lori Roy. The plot of The Disappearing is layered and complex, but readers will never feel lost due to the steady hand of the author, wielding twists and manipulating revelations in only the best sense of those words.
So much of The Disappearing deals with this family’s heritage. It just may be that the legacy of lies last longer and is more painful than anything the truth could reveal. Like moving amongst the buried roots of old Cyprus trees, navigating this history is challenging at best and potentially deadly at worst. The Faulkneresque milieu serves to lure readers into this writer’s enthralling web. Turn yourself over to the seductive language of Lori Roy and the profound ambiance of her chosen setting; The Disappearing is a novel that holds its secrets close and manages to deeply ingrain itself into the reader’s mind forevermore.
Disclaimer: A print galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the author. No review was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.