I still haven’t gotten around to reading Paul Tremblay’s A Head Full of Ghosts, which seemed to be all over the bookish internet last year, but I plan on it. When I saw that his new release was going on tour with TLC Book Tours I hopped on board.
Disappearance at Devil’s Rock is set in Massachusetts. Its a creepy novel that calls to mind the Puritan mythology of the devil living in the wilderness of New England’s forests.
From the publisher: Late one summer night, Elizabeth Sanderson receives the devastating news that every mother fears: her fourteen-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 his disappearance. Feeling helpless and alone, their sorrow is compounded by anger and frustration. The local and state police haven’t uncovered any leads. Josh and Luis, the friends who were with Tommy last, 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— rumored to be cursed.
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 own 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 connected them all and changes everything.
As the search grows more desperate, and the implications of what happened becomes more haunting and sinister, no one is prepared for the shocking truth about that night and Tommy’s disappearance at Devil’s Rock.
The title page of the advance reader copy has a nice shot of a typical New England forest scene: thin trees, a bit of fog, boulders & stone, crispy leaves covering the ground. I love the forest and regularly hike in the trails behind my house here in Connecticut. But when you’re alone and twilight is approaching…those crunchy leaves rustle and make you walk a little faster to get home. The two inch band of forest at the top of the cover page repeats at the top of each chapter page to re-invoke the fear of the wilderness. Each chapter also has a teaser heading that hints at what’s to come: “Elizabeth, Out of the Corners of Her Eyes, and More Notes” or “Elizabeth and Felt Presences, the Last Entries, Kate and Josh Twice.” It gives the book an old timey feel.
The heart of the story is about Tommy, a teenaged boy who went into the woods late one night with two friends and never came home. Tommy’s parents divorced when he was a boy, his father later died in a car accident after a bit of a downward spiral. Tommy’s mother thinks all is well at home. Her son’s recent attitude changes were just typical teenage boy growing pains, right? Or was it something else? Stories start to emerge, some myth-like. Relationships between Tommy’s mother and sister, as well as his grandmother, become strained. Nothing seems quite straightforward. Is Tommy’s mother really seeing him or is she having a nervous breakdown? What are the friends hiding? What does his sister know? I don’t want to say too much because, much like an investigation, there are some interesting unfoldings in the plot. Tommy’s mother and sister are each doing their own investigations into various factors of Tommy’s disappearance. And while Detective Allison Murtagh is on the case, she’s also dealing with her own tough family situation.
There are a few truly creepy scenes in this novel, scenes that made me happy I don’t live alone, but it is not straight horror, it’s also a family drama novel and a crime novel. The ending left me unsatisfied and slightly annoyed in that horror novel way (thanks a lot, Paul), but now I want to read A Head Full of Ghosts more than ever.
Title: Disappearance at Devil’s Rock
Author: Paul Tremblay
Publisher: William Morrow/HarperCollins, June 2016
Source: TLC Book Tours review copy in exchange for an honest review.
Recommend to: readers who like mixed genre books and family drama. Will make a nice summer read if you want to get creeped out, but not be completely terrified (unless, of course, you’re a parent).