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If I Disappear


If I Disappear

True crime podcast fan Sera is a devoted listener. So when her favorite host, Rachel Bard, goes silent, she becomes fixated on finding out what happened to her. After all, Rachel cared enough to dig into the disappearances of many women in her weekly podcasts, so someone has to care about her. Sera knows every episode, and she remembers Rachel saying at the end of one, “Sometimes I wonder, would anyone look for me? Would anyone care if I disappeared?” And she’s sure Rachel was speaking directly to her.

The timing couldn’t be more perfect. Sera lost her job (for missing work because of binge listening to the “Murder, She Spoke” podcast). So now she packs a small bag and heads out to Rachel’s home, Fountain Creek Ranch, in the hills of northern California. In the summer, the Bard family hosts guests on their acreage there, a few miles from a little place called Happy Camp. It’s rugged territory, with no cell phone service, spotty internet and an eerie feeling of constantly being watched.

"Eliza Jane Brazier lays out a thrilling mystery here that plays out in a beautiful, wild setting. What’s not to love?"

When Sera arrives at Happy Camp, as with most small towns, the residents eye her with distrust, bordering on animosity. Despite the attitude, she manages to get directions to the Bard ranch. At Fountain Creek, the welcome isn’t any better. Rachel’s mom, Addy, seems to dislike everyone. Her mood is sullen and angry, yet she still hires Sera. They desperately need workers to prepare for the summer guests.

If Sera is going to investigate what happened to Rachel, she’ll have a devil of a time with Addy looking over her shoulder every second. Sera can’t move without eyes on her. Addy has rules, lots of rules --- about where Sera can and can’t go, forbidden subjects, people to steer clear of. She cautions Sera to stay away from Happy Camp --- and Jed, another ranch employee. Supposedly, he has just returned from Texas, where he split with his wife. But why did he lie to Addy about the purpose of his trip?

Maybe Sera is overreacting, but she believes everyone is acting suspiciously. Is that because of her obsession with finding Rachel? She doesn’t know who she can trust, and, honestly, snooping doesn’t earn her any friends. She promised herself, though --- and Rachel --- to solve this mysterious disappearance. But has she already tipped off the wrong person? Does she have her own death wish?

Sera is sure that Fountain Creek Ranch holds the answers, but neither the Bards nor the people of Happy Camp will talk. Quite the opposite, actually; they try to warn her off. After hitting so many dead-ends, Sera might have simply given up if not for the appearance of a dead body.

Podcasts are a popular form of entertainment, none more so than true crime for many. So ask yourself what you would do if your favorite host went missing. Would you try to find out what happened? Would you want to slip into the role of amateur sleuth? I suspect it would be tempting. Sera followed her instincts --- and her dream --- and doggedly searched for Rachel. Too many women disappeared with no one noticing or caring. Sera was determined to care. Author Eliza Jane Brazier lays out a thrilling mystery here that plays out in a beautiful, wild setting. What’s not to love?

Reviewed by Kate Ayers on January 29, 2021

If I Disappear
by Eliza Jane Brazier