Title: If I Disappear
Author: Eliza Jane Brazier
Date published: January 26, 2021
When her favorite true crime podcast host goes missing, an adrift young woman plunges headfirst into the wild backcountry of Northern California and her own dangerous obsession.
Sera loves true crime podcasts. They make her feel empowered in a world where women just like her disappear daily. She’s sure they are preparing her for something. So when Rachel, her favorite podcast host, goes missing, Sera knows it’s time to act. Rachel has always taught her to trust her instincts.
Sera follows the clues hidden in the episodes to an isolated ranch outside Rachel’s small hometown to begin her search. She’s convinced her investigation will make Rachel so proud. But the more Sera digs into this unfamiliar world, the more off things start to feel. Because Rachel is not the first woman to vanish from the ranch, and she won’t be the last…
Eliza Jane Brazier’s debut novel tells the story of an avid true crime podcast listener who upends her life to search for her favorite podcast host when she goes missing. This book is perfect for lovers of true crime podcasts and will definitely get you interested in listening if you don’t already. IF I DISAPPEAR is extremely eerie, entertaining, and will keep you hooked until the shocking final reveal.
This is an extremely unique thriller that had me invested in the story from the first page. The first thing that intrigued me about IF I DISAPPEAR was the writing style. Many people would incorrectly label this book as being written in second person because of the use of “you” throughout, but this book is actually written in what’s called “direct address,” where the main character is talking to another person the whole time. A huge part of the creepy factor in this story is the way Sera, the main character, talks to Rachel, her favorite podcast host, for the whole book.
At first, this will be very off-putting because Sera reveals very little about herself when the reader is first introduced to her. The beginning of the story leading up to when Sera inserts herself into Rachel’s old life and starts investigating her disappearance feels very detached, but as you continue reading, you realize this was done in an intentional and masterful way. The title of this book is right on the nose, because disappearing, both literally and figuratively, is a the main theme of this book. Sera herself has felt like she has been disappearing for the past few years of her life since getting married, getting pregnant, having a miscarriage, and getting divorced. After these events, Sera suffers a deep depression in which she can’t work or get out of bed, and spends all her time listening to Rachel’s podcast, which is where her obsession with Rachel comes in.
It is easy to see why Sera relates to and latches on to Rachel as the story develops: Sera listens to Rachel’s podcast episodes about women who go missing, and she feels Rachel gives their stories a voice. When Rachel herself goes missing, Sera feels compelled by her own feelings of losing herself to find a fellow lost woman. One thing I didn’t like so much was the repetition of the phrase “if I disappear,” as I feel the message of the book would have been just as strong without the literal use of the phrase, because this book covers so many aspects of how women can disappear throughout their lives.
Another standout element of this story was the setting. The descriptions of the ranch where Rachel lived and the surrounding area were so vivid and detailed and really contributed to the feelings of isolation and atmosphere of the whole story. Every piece of the setting added some layer of creepiness to the plot, from the deformed pack of dogs that follows Rachel’s mother around the ranch to the horse herd that bullies one of the horses. Everything about the way the setting was written echoed Sera’s own feelings of being isolated from other people and from her own life.
As it should with any good thriller/mystery, the sense of dread builds as we get to know more about both Rachel and Sera’s lives and gets stronger and stronger until what you think is the climax and big reveal. I will admit that I thought I had the reveal figured out based on some of the clues given around 80% of the way through, but ended up being totally wrong in the end. Some readers won’t like the open-ended conclusion, but for me it really worked and spoke to the message of the story in an exciting way.
This book provided exactly the escape I’ve been craving from literature lately with its amazing setting and thrilling plot. IF I DISAPPEAR completely distracted me from my own life and took me on a wild, unsettling adventure that has definitely made me want to pick up more thrillers and give some true crime podcasts a try. If you’re looking for a total diversion from the world around you, I highly recommend picking up this unique book (and keeping the lights on when you go to sleep after you finish).