Disappearance at Devil’s Rock by Paul Tremblay

My apologies for the long delay in writing — the chaos in the world and the busy nature of life has left me rather drained!  But I have managed to start reading some fiction again, and I thought I would share thoughts on one of my recent reads, Disappearance at Devil’s Rock (2016), by Paul Tremblay.

One night Elizabeth Sanderson awakens to the call that every parent fears: her son, 13 year old Tommy, has disappeared into the wilds of a Borderland State Park while hanging out with his friends, Josh and Luis.  A search is immediately launched near the landmark nicknamed Devil’s Rock, a place where local folklore says the devil was trapped ages ago. As the days pass and the search area expands, fruitlessly, Elizabeth and her daughter Kate struggle with feelings of helplessness and terror. But, unexpectedly, they begin to find pages of Tommy’s journal lying on the floor of the house in the morning, with no idea how they got there.

The journal pages begin to shed light on the circumstances of Tommy’s disappearance, even as the family struggles to understand where they are coming from. But none of them are prepared for the final revelation of what happened that night at Devil’s Rock, and why.

I purchased Disappearance at Devil’s Rock when it was first published, though it took me a while to get around to reading it!  I was drawn by its obvious inspiration, the novel Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay and the Peter Weir movie that it inspired, a Victorian-era story about an outing from a girl’s school that results in several students and teachers disappearing without a trace.

Tremblay acknowledges that Disappearance at Devil’s Rock is partly inspired by Picnic at Hanging Rock, and though the overall concept is the same in both novels, the stories evolve in very different ways. Picnic at Hanging Rock is pretty much entirely an eerie unsolved mystery, whereas Disappearance at Devil’s Rock is part mystery, part thriller, and part supernatural story — perhaps.  One learns the fate of Tommy by the end of the novel, though explanations for everything that has happened remains disturbingly ambiguous. It reminds me a little of Ramsey Campbell’s Ghosts Know, another mystery novel written by a master horror author.

Disappearance at Devil’s Rock reveals itself to be a story of loss, grief, human cruelty, and human weakness, and is remarkably powerful in the telling. I think I put off reading it for a long time because I wasn’t sure if I would be compelled by the story of a child’s disappearance, but once I started the book I really couldn’t put it down until I was done with it.



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