Set in Wales, The Night They Vanished is a dual narrative told by siblings. Hanna is in her 30’s, estranged from her family, but has her life together after years of punishing herself for something tragic that happened in her past. Sasha is her 14 year old sister who is still controlled by their father and longs for some friends and a relationship with her older sister. As Hanna starts to get strange and threatening messages, her past comes back to haunt her and her innocent little sister.
Sasha’s narrative is set slightly before the events of Hanna’s, so while Hanna is trying to figure out what’s happening in her life now, Sasha’s story is revealing Hanna’s past as well as her own story. The dual narrative trope is done a little too often, perhaps, but it’s handled nicely here to allow us some little insights into the mystery as it goes along.
This book is written in the flowing, slightly light, dramatic style that thrillers and domestic thrillers usually take, with the many short chapters you’d expect. It works well for the genre, but this book is about 370 pages, so it’s not the kind of fast read that the writing style works best with. It makes the book a little slow in the middle, and cutting between the sisters sometimes slows things down as well. For the length, the characters should be a little more deep and developed, and there should be more leads and more suspects. Some of the characters introspection is repeated and not really necessary. That said, it does flow well, and has some interesting plot lines and misdirects. It’s entertaining.
The Wales locations and setting are really nice. I especially liked the addition of empty houses, crumbling historical homes and a dying amusement park. It really adds a little Gothic vibe to the narrative that works really well. There’s a moment near the beginning where Hanna thinks about how cute these villages seem from the outside, but living there is a bit boring and the people can be small minded, mean, and yet it’s also home for Hanna. I thought that was quite an astute observation, where small places can seem idyllic but not be. And also that small can be comfortable, home, even while it has it’s problems.
The ending was, as is often the case in thrillers (and can be part of the fun of the genre), quite melodramatic. People want to sacrifice themselves for other people and they all do silly things in the process. You’ll have figured it all out a bit before the ending. It’s not bad. I won’t say more, but it’s not a completely satisfying ending.
It does, however, leave some questions unanswered. Why is Stephen the cop so obsessed with Hanna? Owen is really obsessed with Jacob, and then with Hanna, but we never know why and what that meant. Was he in love with him? With her? Why does he do what he does? Hanna and Sasha’s father feels unresolved too. What’s his motivation? Why did Hanna’s mother leave her behind? For a book at this length, we shouldn’t really have loose ends.
(If you’re a little tech savvy, you might notice two things. This is really nitpicky, but a Dark Tourism blog that appears to be behind a paywall would not make any money at all, even as a hobby. Blogs themselves rarely make any money. Secondly, there’s a character who hacks into other people’s computers to send messages. If they have the skills to do this, they would not just send messages. There is much worse things they could do, especially given their motivation. To be honest, this didn’t bother me, because the online stuff was more a side thread than the main story, but I think a lot of readers will notice it)
I think all the things I’ve picked up here as criticisms are common ones for this genre. The important thing with thrillers is that you want to keep turning pages, you want to have your curiosity piqued and to be entertained. This book ticked these boxes for me and I think it will please fans of the genre.
Read It If: if you’re a thriller reader or like UK settings, give this one a try. Perhaps a little long, I enjoyed this read and it’s slightly Gothic, dramatic atmospshere.
Thank you to HBG Canada for the copy of this book for review.