The Last To Vanish
Grade : B

In the latest from Megan Miranda, The Last to Vanish, seven people have vanished in the small North Carolina mountain town of Cutter's Pass over the past twenty odd years. What happened to them? And can we trust the narration of Abby Lovett--the book is in her first-person voice--about whom we know almost nothing? I can promise you that the first mystery is solved, albeit in a rather rushed manner. As to whether or not the story Abby tells can be believed, well, I'm not sure.

Abby is a removed narrator--I kept wanting to ask her basic questions in order to get a grasp on who she is and how she got that way, but she remains, throughout the book, impenetrable. Having her tell Cutter's Pass' story--she is still somewhat of an outsider despite having been there for ten years--was an exercise in (enjoyable) reader frustration. She's not an unreliable narrator, she's often parsimonious to the point of annoyance.

Abby, despite her muted tone, desperately wants to know what has happened to the seven lost souls who vanished, all last seen in Cutter's Pass. She's always wondered but part of trying to fit in in the insular community has meant not asking too many questions. She suspects everyone and no one but her suspicions have never motivated her to push back against the town's reticence. However, Trey West, the brother Landon West, the last person to vanish--two years ago--has come to stay in the the inn that Abby manages and his arrival pushes Abby into finally doing something.

All the questions that Abby has suppressed bubble up and she, in fits and starts, finally learns the truth about those who vanished. She does so in the last pages of the book and while the resolution to the mystery is a surprise, it's not a very compelling one. The motives of the person or people responsible are slightly touched on. It's enough for Abby, and by extension Miranda, to let us know what happened--the why doesn't overmuch interest her.

Thus, the mystery isn't where this book shines. Its joys are found in its faultless rendering of a tiny Southern mountain town. Every year, I spend several weeks in the North Carolina mountains-- I recognize Cutter's Pass. It's a place where the locals are super friendly to tourists whom they see primarily as income. Everyone knows everyone else's business and most minor and even major sins are forgiven and always concealed from outsiders. The police force is small but uncontested--its rule is law and that's how the town likes it. The people of Cutter's Pass are a tribe--racially and religiously fairly monolithic--and they take great comfort in the way they do things. Outsiders--tourists, summer people, the wealthy who come to stay in their second homes--will always be just that. The town's history and its denizens, both slowly parsed, are fascinating.

Thus I can recommend The Last to Vanish to those who like character driven stories with a slow growing sense of menace. It's not an especially suspenseful book but it is a quietly compelling one. I, like Abby, had to know what happened to all who vanished from Cutter's Pass. And though the answer isn't much of a jolt, it hews perfectly to Miranda's self-contained small town.

Buy it at: Amazon, Audible or your local independent retailer

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Reviewed by Dabney Grinnan
Grade : B
Book Type: Mystery

Sensuality: N/A

Review Date : July 27, 2022

Publication Date: 07/2022

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Dabney Grinnan

Impenitent social media enthusiast. Relational trend spotter. Enjoys both carpe diem and the fish of the day. Publisher at AAR.
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