What happens when your boyfriend of six months stages a bizarre fight with you one evening, then disappears, leaving behind evidence that incriminates you for his murder?
Jillian Keating finds the answer to this question when her boyfriend, whom she knew as Ryan Cornell, does exactly that. Sounds like a terrible nightmare that makes for heavy, depressing reading, but author Susan Berliner manages to navigate the tension in her book with a light touch that kept me interested throughout.
While a number of turns in the story were somewhat predictable, The Disappearance makes for an interesting book even without the twist of an original paranormal phenomenon weaved into the plot. One of the ways it draws the reader in is through its relatable plot. A person like Ryan could do what he did, and a character like Jillian could react in that way. Likewise, the paranormal phenomenon is at the exact point to make a reader wonder “what if” instead of “yeah right.” I didn’t like the way the police were portrayed – as judgmental individuals only intent on closing the case, rather than finding out the truth – but the subsequent work of the hired private detective progresses steadily but in a relatively simple and believable fashion that does not confuse the reader.
The three main characters – Jillian, Ryan, and the detective – are intriguing. Their personalities and histories are unraveled steadily throughout the book consistently with the plot. I do wish for more development however. And while we humans are consistently inconsistent in the way we behave, there were some discrepancies in the three main characters that bothered me. For example, Ryan is highly intelligent, but the way he went about framing Jillian seems hasty and careless at times.
Another example, is how irresolute Jillian could be, reminding me at times of the damsel-in-distress awaiting for her savior despite demonstrating glimmerings of capacity to do much more. After all, she did figure out what the paranormal phenomenon was and how it worked by herself. A person with the sharpness of mind to do so should be able to go online and find something about the guy who is trying to frame her for murder. However, just like with my frustration at the character of George Costanza is a reflection of the brilliance with which Jason Alexander portrayed him, my frustration at the irresolute Jillian is a reflection of the consistency of the author’s portrayal of the character.
The Disappearance makes for an interesting and relaxing read that will make readers wonder what a world with this kind of paranormal phenomena would be like, and how much better the world would be without people such as Ryan.