Vanished by James Delargy #BookReview, #FirstMondayCrime

From the groundbreaking author of 55 comes an extraordinary new thriller...
The Kane family, Lorcan, Naiyana and their young son, relocate from Perth to Kallayee, an abandoned mining town in the Great Victoria Desert to start over again, free from their chequered past. 
The town seems like the perfect getaway: Peaceful. Quiet. Remote. Somewhere they won’t be found.  
But life in Kallayee isn’t quite as straightforward as they hope. There are noises in the earth, mysterious shadows and tracks in the dust as if the town is coming back to life. 
But the family can’t leave. No one can talk sense into them.
And now, no one can talk to them at all.
They’ve simply vanished. 

It's time for May's First Monday Crime, which again is actually Second Monday this month due to the bank holiday. Join the brilliant panel on Facebook Live from 7:30pm this evening to see Tina Baker (Call Me Mummy), Phoebe Morgan (The Wild Girls), James Delargy (Vanished) and Marion Todd (What They Knew) discuss their books with moderator, William Shaw. I'm delighted to be sharing my review of Vanished today, many thanks to James Delargy, Simon & Schuster and Joy Kluver for inviting me and for my copy of the novel.

Detective Emmeline Taylor from the Major Crime Squad (MCS) doesn't usually become involved in misper cases but when three members from the same family go missing, it's another matter and so she is called to Kallayee, a deserted town on the edge of the Great Victoria Desert. Until recently Kallayee was home of sorts to the Kane family, Lorcan, Naiyana and their six-year-old son, Dylan. Their decision to move to the former mining town arose less from their adventurous pioneer spirit and more because both were fleeing mistakes they made in Perth. 
There's remote and there's West Australia remote; the skeleton of a kangaroo greeting the family by the town's sign, an unsettling indication that life is just about to take a very different turn. It quickly becomes apparent that the couple's problems extend beyond their recent chequered past and with each keeping secrets from the other, their relationship is already shaky before Dylan starts to hear something rumble underground...
The storyline shifts between before and after the family's disappearance, following the differing viewpoints of Lorcan, Naiyana and Emmeline - and later a further character's voice is also added to the complex mix of truths, lies and suppositions. At first my sympathies lay with Naiyana but James Delargy artfully skews our perception of the characters, each change in perspective revealing something else about this flawed couple. They are not especially easy to like but nevertheless, their growing unease becomes almost palpable , particularly as their manipulative actions potentially put the innocent young Dylan at risk too.
At first his nightmares could just be interpreted as a child's response to their abrupt change in circumstances but perhaps they are not as alone in the abandoned town as they believed. It's a chilling thought, even in the oppressive heat of the Outback and the intermittent chapters tracking Emmeline's investigation means there's a tense inevitability to the story. As she gradually pieces together what occurred in Kallayee, the terrible sense of foreboding becomes as claustrophobic as the dry, dusty town itself. 
With both Naiyana and Lorcan's previous actions coming under scrutiny, Emmeline and her colleagues have a number of leads to follow in this perplexing case. The back and forth nature of the novel cleverly reveals then obscures what really happened until late in the book but throughout, Emmeline is a breath of fresh air among some unsavoury characters. She is unabashedly herself; self-aware, at ease with her wants and desires, and not afraid to antagonise people in order to elicit a reaction from them. She is a character I enjoyed spending time with and as her role in the MCS, 'Fly in, work with what you get, investigate and fly out' gives plenty of scope for further cases, I hope James Delargy considers bringing her back in the future.
This intricately woven story  is a slow-burning, compelling tale where the exploration of a doomed marriage amidst a hostile environment eventually reveals the dramatic truth behind the sinister fate of this troubled family. With its evocative descriptions of the harsh landscape, Vanished is an atmospheric, brooding thriller which haunted and intrigued me throughout. Highly recommended.

Vanished is published by Simon & Schuster, purchasing links can be found here but please support independent bookshops whenever possible.

About the Author
James Delargy was born and raised in Ireland and lived in South Africa, Australia and Scotland, before ending up in semi-rural England where he now lives. He incorporates this diverse knowledge of towns, cities, landscape and culture picked up on his travels into his writing. His first novel, 55, was published in 2019 by Simon & Schuster and has been sold to 21 territories to date. Vanished is his second novel.