Lane Fielding is forced to move back to her parents’ restored plantation house in Waddell, Florida, seeking refuge after she learns that her husband, a famous author, had an affair. The town and the house are full of unpleasant triggers for Lane, but she considers the location the best option for her two daughters, the almost-adult Annalee and younger preteen Talley. All three must struggle for acceptance in the community. Lane’s father, Neil, once ran the town’s school for runaway boys. Several of those boys, now grown, found each other on the Internet and accused Neil of abuse, even murder. Although Neil has not been charged with a crime, few people believe in his innocence. Neil is now left to age and brood in the family home.
Lane has her own complicated history in her hometown in addition to her father’s checkered past. When she was thirteen, she went missing. Her disappearance is only alluded to until a narrative recollection tells the whole story – which is not what the reader might expect. Nobody in Waddell has forgotten this tale about the Fieldings,either. While Lane is remembered as a victim, she fights against the same prejudices and expectations that ran her out of town years ago.
Just as Lane, Annalee, and Talley are finding their footing in the town, Annalee disappears. And, the reader learns, another young blond woman vanished a few weeks prior. Now the reader wonders: is this, after all, a tale of a serial villain? Or is Annalee’s disappearance connected to Lane’s? And what does any of it have to do with the carefully described Fielding history and the now-closed boys’ school?
The far-from-simple family drama is just one part of the intricate tale woven into The Disappearing by Edgar Award-winning author Lori Roy. The story is told by four different characters: Lane; Lane’s sometimes-addled-by-age mother Erma; Lane’s observant young daughter Talley; and a local young man, Daryl, a nondescript acquaintance of both Talley and Annalee. Roy makes each voice distinct, with the truth slowly emerging from different points of view. The chapters shift between the past and the present, which is occasionally confusing in some of Daryl’s flashback chapters. Overall the technique works quite well in Roy’s skillful hands.
The Disappearing is a complex story with an unexpected conclusion that manages to satisfy but not soothe. This was my first Lori Roy novel and I’m now looking forward to enjoying her other mysteries.
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