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Disappearance at Devil's Rock


Disappearance at Devil's Rock

What makes a scary story? Vampires and ghouls? Zombies and demons? Or the real dangers of the world, like war, torture and murder? Paul Tremblay’s latest novel, DISAPPEARANCE AT DEVIL’S ROCK, examines the terrifying disappearance of a child and adds the kind of monster that really walks among us.

Thirteen-year-old Tommy Sanderson is, by all accounts, a normal boy. He has spent most of the summer with his two best friends, Josh and Luis, playing Minecraft and riding bikes. Late one night, his mother, Elizabeth, receives a frantic call from the boys telling her that they “lost” Tommy in the woods and have no idea where he is or why he ran off. So begins a long search for Tommy, starting at the place most people know as Split Rock but that comes to be called Devil’s Rock as, in the coming weeks, a dark legend grows around Tommy and why he is gone.

As Elizabeth, her 11-year-old daughter, Katie, and her mother, Janice, assist in the investigation and search, they are tormented not only by what Tommy’s disappearance could mean, but by the thought that a supernatural element might be involved. Are Elizabeth’s visions of Tommy real or just a product of her fear? Are the journal pages she finds being left by Tommy? If so, how? Or is there someone messing with her mind and emotions?

"This novel is a page-turner; chilling, unnerving and psychologically rich, it will keep readers guessing and entertained."

Tremblay gives readers the perspective of the boys in parallel with that of Tommy’s family, and so a new story, just as frightening, emerges. Earlier in the summer, the boys met a young man named Arnold (Joyce Carol Oates fans will enjoy the reference) who charms them with “hobo coins” and plies them with beer. He is strange but seems to understand the boys, giving them his undivided attention. Tommy especially succumbs to Arnold’s ideas and suggestions. Eventually he leads the children toward a horrific moment of violence and insanity that results in Tommy’s disappearance and the ensuing trauma. The narrative of the relationship among the friends and Arnold, and the events leading up to Tommy’s running off into the woods, is just as scary, dark and suspenseful as the aftermath when the boys try to hide their terrible secret. Tremblay intertwines and balances the two sides of the story deftly.

DISAPPEARANCE AT DEVIL’S ROCK is a scary story: tense and creepy, blending a brutal realism with more than a mere suggestion of the supernatural. The evils at play here are varied --- some fantastically sinister, others sadly mundane --- and Tremblay does a great job letting readers sort them out. Most of all, however, this is a story about grief: the grief that Tommy has carried with him, and the grief that Elizabeth feels after he goes missing. It is this grief that invites and creates the monsters that prey on the lonely, the sad and the uncertain. This novel is a page-turner; chilling, unnerving and psychologically rich, it will keep readers guessing and entertained. 

Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on July 8, 2016

Disappearance at Devil's Rock
by Paul Tremblay