Katrina Monroe and the Dark Side of Fiction

Katrina Monroe is an author, mother, and professional haterologist. Her favorite things to hate include socks that fall down, grape-flavored anything, and the color 'salmon.' Grab her books here.

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Book Review:
Disappearance At Devil's Rock


From the cover:

Late one summer night, Elizabeth Sanderson receives the devastating news that every mother fears: her thirteen-year-old son, Tommy, has vanished without a trace in the woods of a local park.


The search isn’t yielding any answers, and Elizabeth and her young daughter, Kate, struggle to comprehend Tommy’s disappearance. Feeling helpless and alone, their sorrow is compounded by anger and frustration: the local and state police have uncovered no leads. Josh and Luis, the friends who were the last to see Tommy before he vanished, may not be telling the whole truth about that night in Borderland State Park, when they were supposedly hanging out a landmark the local teens have renamed Devil’s Rock.


Living in an all-too-real nightmare, riddled with worry, pain, and guilt, Elizabeth is wholly unprepared for the strange series of events that follow. She believes a ghostly shadow of Tommy materializes in her bedroom, while Kate and other local residents claim to see a shadow peering through their windows in the dead of night. Then, random pages torn from Tommy’s journal begin to mysteriously appear—entries that reveal an introverted teenager obsessed with the phantasmagoric; the loss of his father, killed in a drunk-driving accident a decade earlier; a folktale involving the devil and the woods of Borderland; and a horrific incident that Tommy believed connects them.


As the search grows more desperate, and the implications of what happened become more haunting and sinister, no one is prepared for the shocking truth about that night and Tommy’s disappearance at Devil’s Rock.



First Impressions:

            From the first page, we are plunged into an all too real nightmare shared by parents everywhere (this reviewer included), and pummeled further by the word “again.” Regardless of Tremblay’s deft hand at painting a mother and sister too broken for words, the reader’s human desire is what pulls her into the narrative, driven by a deep-seeded need to know that the missing boy, Tommy, is okay.


            Tremblay’s fluid style is easy to get swept away in and soon the reader’s mind is filled with burning questions and can’t keep from turning the pages.  



The Best of it:

            I was a fan of Paul Tremblay’s from the first page of HEAD FULL OF GHOSTS and that continued into my reading of DISAPPEARANCE AT DEVIL’S ROCK. He expertly plants strings that seem, at first, only vaguely connected, and it’s these vague connections that draw the reader deeper, knowing we won’t like what we find on the other end of the string.


            Of all the wonderful things I could say about Tremblay’s writing, his characterization is of an exemplary caliber. Each character, no matter how seemingly throw-away, is given the full treatment. With a line, they come to life in the reader’s mind, adding personal stake (ours) to the mounting tension.


The Worst of it:

            As I read, I started to think of the chapter titles as little spoilers. Each one gives the plot point play by play, depriving the reader of some of the surprises. The book would have been better served without them.


Yeah, But What if it Were a Movie?

            Probably because I spent the last week binging STRANGER THINGS on Netflix, I couldn’t help but see Josh, Luis, and Tommy as the boys from the series. The camaraderie of barely pubescent boys plays out in a similar fashion, adding to the realness of the story. Younger sister Kate could really be any child actress from recent horror flicks (the girl’s GOT to be able to act scared). I’d cast Jennifer Aniston as Elizabeth (Tommy and Kate’s mom). Aniston has got that suburban mom thing DOWN and, thanks to a surprisingly good performance in CAKE, she’s been on my radar. Finally, Arnold (who? SPOILERS!) would be played by Macaulay Culkin because, well, you’ll see why.   


Show Stealer:

            There’s a body—and I’m not going to tell you whose body—that’s described in such vivid, disgusting, reeling detail that the image will probably stay with me for a while. Of all the scenes in all the book, that’s probably what I’ll remember most. And, you know, I think Tremblay meant it that way.


Final Impressions:

            DISAPPEARANCE AT DEVIL’S ROCK is like the last big plunge of a roller-coaster. There’s the click-click-click in your ears as you go up-up-up and you just know the drop is coming, it’s right in front of you, but you feel yourself getting worked up, thinking now? but it isn’t now. And it’s not two seconds from now.


            And then the drop comes and it’s full-goddamn-speed ahead until you come to a screeching halt at the finish line.


            Everyone loves the final plunge. It’s the big thrill. Me? I like the full coaster. DISAPPEARANCE AT DEVIL’S ROCK is an anxiety-ridden page-turner, there’s no debate, but because of spoilery chapter titles, I felt cheated out of the rest of the coaster. 

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