Friday, January 22, 2021


I listen to a lot of true crime podcasts, and I was excited to read the book If I Disappear due to its story involving a true-crime podcaster.  Obsessive fan Sera Fleece becomes concerned when the host of the podcast Murder, She Spoke suddenly stops putting out her very regular episodes.  As the majority of episodes of the podcast had dealt with missing women, Sera immediately becomes convinced that Rachel, the podcaster, has been murdered (or somehow the victim of foul play).  Using clues from the various episodes, Sera decides to travel to Rachel's home and see if she can get to the bottom of the disappearance.

Sera is a very hard character to like or even sympathize with.  She mentions over and over how she was "born to disappear" and has just never felt at home in the world.  She married her ex-husband because he seemed like some she could tolerate and describes feeling detached at her wedding. She couldn't hold a job and wasn't close to her parents.  Now in her 30s, she has been sitting at home doing nothing for the past year other than listening to Rachel's podcast over and over.  

Rachel began her podcast with a story that was local to her:  the disappearance of a girl from her high school when she was also a student there.  Rachel has talked about her life a great deal on the podcast:  that her parents run Fountain Creek Guest Ranch in Happy Camp, California; that she doesn't get along with her parents; that she lives in a yellow house on the property.  

Sera shows up in town asking for directions to the ranch and is met with stares and hostility from the local townspeople.  When she finally finds it, the ranch appears to be mostly run-down and overgrown with blackberry brambles.  Rachel's mother, Addy, quickly agrees to give Sera a job at the ranch cleaning and helping with the horses.  The other people who live at the ranch are Rachel's father Emmett and a hired man named Jed.

Soon, Sera begins, not very subtly to ask about Rachel and her disappearance.  Maddeningly for her, no one seems concerned or upset that Rachel is gone.  Many people tell her Rachel was strange, didn't get along with anyone, and had a habit of disappearing for long periods of time only to return with outlandish tales of what had happened to her. Only her mother Addy has a different story: that Rachel has been murdered by "gangs" from town.  Even if her mother believes that, Sera finds it odd that no police investigation has been done.

The story meanders along with Sera confronting everyone at the ranch and in town with her suspicious about Rachel's disappearance.  She keeps trying to find a bond between her "disappearance" from her own life and Rachel's absence.  The book was a little confusing because while real-life true-crime cases were mentioned, there were also many fictional ones that made up some of the cases Rachel covered on her show.  The only thing I can say I really enjoyed about the book was the fact that several times I thought I had elements of the story figured out, but none of what I was expecting happened. Still, the ending felt somewhat rushed and illogical, so I wasn't entirely left feeling as if the story delivered on a satisfying resolution.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of If I Disappear from NetGalley in exchange for this review


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I'm a librarian who is interested in all things British. I try to visit London as often as possible, and am always planning my next trip. I lived in Sweden for a few years with my Swedish husband, so the occasional Swedish reference may occur . . .

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