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by Megan Miranda
Scribner, August 2022
323 pages
ISBN: 1982147318

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

I've spent some time in the mountains of North Carolina, and I've found the thick, lush foliage sort of Sleepy-Hollowish. Megan Miranda captures this perfectly in THE LAST TO VANISH, as she describes the surroundings of the remote fictional town of Cutter's Pass. The book is told from the perspective of Abby Lovett, a young woman who happened into the town and ended up staying. Although she's been there, managing an isolated hotel, for ten years, she is still viewed as an outsider by the insular community. Her interest in the decades-old disappearance of four college friends and more recent disappearances of three other hikers does not help her fit in.

There's a creepy, foreboding sense to the writing, and this is really the biggest strength of the book. The combination of a place cut off from the modern world with Internet and phones constantly going out at the worst times, the almost smothering encroaching forest, and an overall atmosphere of menace is extremely well done. When the brother of the most recently vanished visitor to the hotel arrives and Abby attempts to help him find closure, the closely held secrets of the town start to emerge with frightening consequences.

The plotting is straightforward, until it isn't. By the time the twists and revelations start coming, we have a strong sense of place and character that helps them integrate into the plot without seeming to be drawn from thin air. All that the reader has learned about the life-long residents and the missing hikers helps make sense of the resolution. Over the course of the book, Abby's relationships with the other characters develop in as reasonable a manner as becoming a member of a closed-off community can be. Both the community of Cutter's Pass and Abby have secrets, and she can only be accepted once those secrets are shared.

This was my first read of a book by Megan Miranda, though she's written many thrillers. It was such an immersive experience that I am anxious to pick up one of her other books to see if she is always this good. I would suggest that you have some time available to you when you read this one, because you will not want to put it down.

Sharon Mensing, retired educational leader, lives, reads, and enjoys the outdoors in Arizona.

Reviewed by Sharon Mensing, August 2022

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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