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Following 2020’s intriguing debut, TOWARD THE LIGHT, Bonnar Spring’s stand-alone novel introduces middle-age sisters Julie and Fay. The two enjoy annual excursions sans family to an exotic destination, this one to Morocco. The northwestern African country of 2005 is far removed from the contemporary tourist magnet.

"DISAPPEARED is a phenomenal mélange of thriller, mystery, suspense, family bonding and, yes, triumph of cunning. I can’t wait for the film adaptation!"

From Marrakesh, Fay drives to a hotel in Ouarzazate, a city south of the “snowcapped meringue of the Atlas Mountains,” known as a gateway to the Sahara Desert. Police stop them and search their vehicle and luggage. Fay suggests the cops wanted a bribe, but Julie isn’t so sure as other tourists whiz by. After a day of shopping, Julie naps and wakes up to find Fay’s bed undisturbed. More annoyed than concerned, she dines at a typical Moroccan restaurant and learns a lot about local folklore. The next day, Fay hasn’t returned. “The worry I kept at bay returns, crashing over me like a tidal wave,” but Julie finds a note from the previous afternoon indicating that Fay will return in two days. Make that tomorrow.

Finding an address in Fay’s backpack, Julie sets off to locate her. Fay has been hiding something from her older sibling that lands her in a desert paramilitary compound with no chance for escape. In this case, disappeared is what happens to dictatorship opponents, but neither sister has been to Morocco.

Julie engages a guide to take her into the desert, where Fay is believed to be. Along the way, she finds a petrified ostrich egg fragment. Ahmed, the guide, tells Julie that an ostrich uses “the triumph of cunning over strength” to survive. It scratches sand into a lion’s eyes, thereby escaping. Spending the night on a sand-mattress, Julie learns the next morning that Ahmed has disappeared, stranding her.

The older sister is sly and observant. She notices anomalies, such as men in cities prefer Western-style clothing whereas rural folk wear traditional djellabas. She strokes the shell fragment (“a talisman for cunning and endurance”) when in a plight. Revelations appear from nowhere.

DISAPPEARED is a phenomenal mélange of thriller, mystery, suspense, family bonding and, yes, triumph of cunning. I can’t wait for the film adaptation!

Somewhat in the vein of Tana French, Bonnar Spring writes eclectic novels with an international flair. The inveterate traveler hitchhiked across Europe at age 16 and joined the Peace Corps after college. She taught ESL (English as a Second Language) and divides her time between a home near a New Hampshire salt marsh and another by the Sea of Abaco.

Reviewed by L. Dean Murphy on May 6, 2022

by Bonnar Spring

  • Publication Date: May 9, 2023
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Oceanview Publishing
  • ISBN-10: 1608095606
  • ISBN-13: 9781608095605