Book review: When you disappeared

3/5 stars

Audible version, narrated by Simon Mattacks and Elizabeth Knowelden.

This book was very different from my other read by John Marrs, and I found it kind of disappointing. Firstly I will say that this is IMO not a thriller. There are mysteries, sure, and I do want to get to the bottom of them, but at no point did I find the story or the actions thrilling or suspenseful. It was easy to put the book down and pick it up again a few days later. I also felt like mystery-wise there weren’t really many clues given for you to be able to guess what had happened yourself, while in The Good Samaritan I felt like that was the case, and also that the story though unbelievable was quite exciting. I will say that there were a few things that were not exactly red herrings but cleverly and ambiguously phrased, which I quite enjoyed once I got to the reveal of what it really meant.

The story starts on the day Simon disappears, and alternates between the POVs of Simon and Katherine. We know from the start that Simon returns 25 years later, and we get part of their conversation from “now” interspersed with their separate lives over the past 25 years.

While this is fine as a narrative technique, the problem for me was that it was kind of slow.  Up until towards the end where I felt the jumps were too quick and it got a little disjointed. But more than that my problem was that I just did not care about Simon, his story or what happened to him. He is a ridiculous and unsympathetic character almost from the get-go, and just becomes more so as his story unfolds. His actions are not believable, and there was one point (when he tells about a pivotal action that happened while he was in Florida – if you read the book you’ll know what I’m talking about) where I was literally laughing out loud and shaking my head at his reasoning of having no other choice than to do as he did. Maybe this was supposed to be ridiculous, but it doesn’t do the story or Simon’s credibility as a character any favours.

When we get to the end and find out why Simon did a runner, things get possibly even more ridiculous. I mean, I totally understand why he thought what he thought, but his reaction to it is just that of a raving lunatic, and I honestly don’t feel like that makes a good story. The ending, though wrapping everything up, was not satisfying.

I did however very much enjoy Katherine’s story of how she got on with her life without Simon and what happened to her and the children. This to me was more of a “chick-lit” type of storyline though, you know “family suffers loss which threatens to tear them apart, but there’s a critical moment where something heart-warming happens and they manage to turn things around”. However, as formulaic as this may sound I thought it was well-written, heart-warming, engaging and I really cared about Katherine and all of the children too. If it hadn’t been for those bits keeping me interested I’d probably give it a 2.

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