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.
Tremblay’s Disappearance at Devil’s Rock is not your usual horror book. I’m not sure I would really classify it as a horror novel, and although I don’t usually review this genre on this blog, I do read horror books quite often. This novel, however, falls under the psychological thriller category because what Tremblay so successfully mastered here was the ability to develop a slow narrative that is both creepy and terrorizing. Psychological stress, frustration, and the unknown are factors much more successful at instilling fear than the flat-out gory and macabre.
The book starts with the dreadful call that every parent fears—that your child is missing. With that premise, Tremblay takes us on a journey with Elizabeth and Kate through the frustrations, the fears, and the pains of having a missing child and not knowing what happened to him. Perhaps because I’m a mother, but also because of the way the story developed, I can say that this is the first book of this genre in which I have felt so much emotion emanating from the pages. I really liked Tremblay’s use of Tommy’s diary entries to give insight into Tommy’s mind and the days close to his disappearance. Without giving too much detail, all I can say is that my heart went out to Elizabeth, to Kate as well as Tommy, and although parts of the plot were a bit predictable, this is not a novel so much about whodunit but also about how the events shape the people involved.
The hallmark of a great novel is the ability to remain on your mind long after you’re done with the book. The disappearance at Devil’s Rock is ultimately a sad novel, but it is a great novel. By far the best book I’ve read in this genre this year.
I’d like to thank TLC Book Tours for providing me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
About The Author
Paul Tremblay is a multiple Bram Stoker Award finalist and the author of the crime novels The Little Sleep and No Sleep Till Wonderland. He has served as the president of the board of directors of the Shirley Jackson Awards, and his essays and short fiction have appeared in the Los Angeles Times and numerous year’s-best anthologies. Find out more about Paul at: