Book review: Vanished by James Delargy

Saturday, June 12, 2021 Permalink

Vanished by James Delargy is a difficult book to describe. I assumed it to be a thriller, but as I started reading I was worried there were going to be some supernatural forces at play and that’s not a genre I enjoy.

Thankfully the mystery surrounding the disappearing family is very much grounded in human actions and interactions… and they’re not swallowed by the earth or some creature hovering beneath.

Book review: Vanished by James DelargyVanished
by James Delargy
Published by Simon & Schuster
on 05/05/2021
Source: Simon & Schuster
Genres: Thriller / Suspense
ISBN: 9781398501270
Pages: 496

Lorcan and Naiyana are desperate to move their young family far away from the hustle and bustle of modern city life.

The abandoned town of Kallayee seems like the perfect getaway: no one has lived there for decades. It will be peaceful. Quiet. Secure.

But life in Kallayee isn’t quite as straightforward as they hope. Lights flicker at night. Car tracks appear in the dust even when the family hasn’t driven anywhere. And six-year-old Dylan is certain he can hear strange sounds.

Lorcan and Naiyana refuse to leave. No one can talk sense into them.

And now, no one can talk to them at all.

They’ve simply vanished.

I should mention this book is quite long, at almost 500 pages, but the font is huge – almost like a large print book.

This was a little slow to start for me and we’re not initially offered any timelines. It’s not until a few chapters in we learn that the Maguire family only arrived in Kallayee a couple of weeks before they were reported missing. The blurb implies that many people had been trying to convince them to leave town and I assumed they lived there for months, if not years.

The plot unfolds in several timeframes and Delargy takes us back and forth. We have several narrators including Lorcan and Naiyana Maguire as well as a local miner, Mike. And then there’s Detective Emmaline Taylor who travels to town to investigate the family’s disappearance.

One of the first chapters is attributed to ‘Nowhere’ which led to my concern about the supernatural element. Were we in the head of a place, a person or thing? It wasn’t something Delargy pursued – unless I missed it completely – so in retrospect seemed a little weird.

Delargy is an atmospheric writer and – in addition time spent in the ghost town-like Kallayee – takes readers through the Northern Territory and into north Queensland. Fans of the outback will certainly appreciate the attention to detail and references to rural life and some Australian landmarks.

I read this in a couple of sittings but there was something about it that just didn’t work for me. Whether it’s because the blurb seemed a little misleading and my sense of time was out or perhaps it was the complexity of (both) Lorcan’s and Naiyana’s backstories. Lorcan’s plan to escape his past seemed immature and highly impractical and I didn’t understand Naiyana going along with it. Their relationship also seemed to make little sense, though of course this may have been Delargy’s aim.

This is cleverly written and Delargy times the twists and reveals well which means we don’t know everyone’s fate until the very end… and it is a very abrupt end. Ultimately the conclusion is satisfying but the tragic comedy of errors that lead to it just didn’t gel as I found I cared little about any of the characters. I didn’t feel we got to know them well and even Emmaline – with whom we spent the most time – seemed almost caricature-like. I’m aware though that the edginess of the episodic storytelling and the fact readers are kept guessing will satisfy many fans of outback or rural noir. I suspect (with a little more character development) it’d also work well on-screen.

Vanished by James Delargy was published in Australia by Simon & Schuster and is now available.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes. 


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