Disappearance at Devil’s Rock by Paul Tremblay. (William Morrow 2016)
Sometimes a book connects with you right away. Sometimes a book kicks you in the nuts. Sometimes a book does both at the same time.
Typically, I like writing to have lots of dialogue and action. It helps with the pacing and it holds my attention. Having said that, considering this book had very little action in it, it really felt like a page turner. I crushed this novel, which is an accomplishment for me since I’m a slow reader, because Paul Tremblay has a way with words that just sucks me in. The man knows how to tell a story.
DaDR, as I’ll refer to it from here on, because I’m too lazy to type it out, starts off with every parent’s worst nightmare – a midnight phone call that their child has gone missing. The investigation following this revelation, and the emotions that ensue, are the driving force behind the story. Tremblay does an incredible job dribbling out information about what happened to the missing child throughout the entire book. The small pieces we’re fed keep us sated, but longing for more sustenance. Even as the pace of the investigation picks up in the third act, Tremblay keeps us wanting more, never dumping too much info at once.
As with Tremblay’s big breakthrough, A Head Full of Ghosts (thank you Stephen King on Twitter!), a key device throughout the book is a question about the paranormal. The mother and sister of the missing boy begin experiencing odd occurrences around their house. They question whether the missing boy is coming home at night or if it’s a paranormal event revolving around his disappearance. The mother struggles with the possibility that her son is dead and the nightly visits are from his spirit. None of the supernatural elements detract from the real-life horror playing out, however. It only adds to the intensity of the family’s struggles.
The emotional roller coaster the family rides on through the book is truly heart wrenching.
Each of the characters, including the missing boy’s friends, deal with the disappearance in depressingly real ways. These aren’t cliche characters dropped into the story – they are the story. The teenage boys react in realistic ways. They feel like moronic teenagers that don’t fully understand their mortality. Until they do.
I don’t want to spoil anything with DaDR (look at that, I only used it one more time. Guess I could have spelled it out after all. It sure would have been faster than writing all this in the parentheses to highlight the uselessness of giving it an acronym. Are you still reading this?), so I’ll end with this – Tremblay is a budding master of the craft. If you haven’t read A Head Full of Ghosts, then start there, and branch out to his other work. You won’t be disappointed. DaDR (got another one in there!) is outstanding.