In a family built on lies, who can you trust?
My dad accompanied me to this year’s Lit Fest, for two reasons. The day before had seen biblical floods in Dubai, and with little drainage in the emirate, I feared the roads would be awash with giant lakes. So Dad was my co-pilot. But he’s also a bookworm, and so I promised him that if he came, I’d buy him a book.
“Have you chosen one?” I asked after coming out of a social media seminar.
Dad smiled and beckoned for me to follow him. I could tell by the twinkle in his eye that something had piqued his interest.
He led me to a book stand on which was displayed the novel I was already excited about buying for myself: Annabel Kantaria’s The Disappearance.
“It’s about a cruise,” he said, rubbing his hands with glee. I should add at this point that my parents are BIG cruisers, hence why the cover and blurb grabbed him.
I’d been wanting to get my hands on this book ever since reading Kantaria’s debut novel, Coming Home, last year. Discovering that my Dad also wanted to read her new release was a lovely surprise (although I always worry about sharing book recommendations with my Dad in case it’s crammed with sex scenes).
Thankfully, The Disappearance is no Fifty Shades of Grey. In keeping with the massively popular dark, ‘domestic noir’ trend, yet bright and uplifting at the same time, it’s a beautifully written story of family secrets and betrayals, set in 1970s India and present-day Cornwall, with a few Greek Islands thrown in to pepper the narrative with colour.
The author conjures up such a wonderful sense of place in describing the characters’ surroundings that you feel like you’re in bustling, sweltering-hot India, too. In the second half of the book, it’s as though you’ve actually boarded a cruise ship and are floating along, stopping at glorious, sun-soaked Mediterranean islands. The descriptions of India and the cruise were my favourite parts of the book.
The spectacular settings aside, the story is threaded with an undercurrent of danger to come. Right at the beginning, we find out that the main character, Audrey – who invited her adult twins Lexi and John to join her on the cruise – has gone missing at sea, on the eve of her 70th birthday. In flashbacks, we learn that she married a dangerous but enigmatic man; her son shares similar, sinister characteristics. John’s motives are tantalisingly ambiguous, especially after it’s revealed Audrey went missing within hours of breaking the news the twins would inherit a fortune after her death.
I don’t want to give the ending away, so I’ll say no more on this cracking, fast-paced story, but if you need another reason to read this book, it’s that, having read psychology to degree-level, the author conjures up vivid, complex and often chilling characters, whose dysfunctional interactions will not only keep you turning the pages, but will also keep you guessing until the epilogue. I’d hazard a guess that she’s been on a cruise, too!
Buy the book here.