STARRED Book Review: In The Vanishing Hour
Reviewed by Melissa Suggitt
One river. Two tragedies. A mystery slowly unravels with growing unease.
In the Vanishing Hour is the story of two people haunted by the past in their little New England town of Norumbega. The town is home to the Charles River, a river that has claimed lives more entwined than anyone dared imagine.
Eight years after her brother Mac’s tragic drowning, 20-year-old Frances has never recovered. She became a shell of the girl she once was, and she longs to be something more, to see someone else when she looks in the mirror. With her friend Iris by her side, she feels like she’s struggling through life, quiet and reserved.
When she meets new model Gwen at the department store where she works, Frances is set down a new path and begins to explore the possibility that there could be more for her out there. But how can she move forward and live a life she dreams of when she can’t outrun her grief or control her newest obsession?
Then there’s Harris, who feels trapped, doomed to spend his days lurking Norumbega with his two loser friends, the shadow of what he’s done looming over him. He needs to decide: take a risk and leave now, or stay?
When Gwen disappears and is presumed drowned, Iris and Frances begin an investigation of their own. One that begins to show the cracks in their friendship, reopens questions about Mac, and has Frances and Harris drawn into each other’s orbit. They’re unable to escape the invisible thread drawn between them. What they don’t know is how they will end up connected forever, whether they want to be or not.
Suddenly (or so it seems to everyone else), Harris leaves town, determined to leave Norumbega, that darkness, and his guilt behind. But fifteen years later, Harris returns—now an architect—working a job at the old Riverside Park. He is immediately confronted with the ghosts of his past and learns you can never escape the things you’ve done—no matter how far you run.
Sarah Beth Martin has created a unique narrative here. While it’s set decades in the past, it feels like it could be happening today. The story feels incredibly immersive, drawing the reader deeper and deeper into the mystery of what happened to Gwen—and what really happened to Mac Adams all those years ago.
Martin expertly moves between characters and timelines, jumping between 1959 and 1974, blending past and present together, all the while slowly unravelling details that keep the reader guessing and on the edge of their seat, desperate to know more.
The writing is poetic and detailed enough to give us a clear picture of this little town and its characters, both in their prime and in their decline. Martin’s dialogue flows so effortlessly and smoothly that you forget you’re not sitting in the moment with the characters.
It’s also interesting to watch a story unfold where both the characters are grappling with their inner identities. The experience is a universal one for most at some point in their lives, and this particular insight reminds us that we’re not alone.
In the end, the reader is left with a strong message: the truth will always find you, and it will set you free. A lesson many of us could benefit from learning.
In the Vanishing Hour pairs suspense with drama and a touch of romance, for an effect that is pleasant and cozy while also completely captivating. What a novel for a rainy afternoon. My advice: leave time to finish it in one sitting because it’s hard to put down. Highly recommended for fans of literary suspense.
Publisher: Encircle Publications
Genre: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense / Literary
Print Length: 308 pages
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