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Vanishing Falls: A Novel

by Poppy Gee

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408526,667 (3.71)2
One of CrimeReads Most Anticipated Books of the Year! "This literary thriller paints as vivid a landscape as any book coming out this summer...Gee creates a lush, tantalizing world that readers will want to travel into deeper and deeper."--CrimeReads Celia Lily is rich, beautiful, and admired. She's also missing. And the search for the glamorous socialite is about to expose all the dark, dirty secrets of Vanishing Falls... Deep within the lush Tasmanian rainforest is the remote town of Vanishing Falls, a place with a storied past. The town's showpiece, built in the 1800s, is its Calendar House--currently occupied by Jack Lily, a prominent art collector and landowner; his wife, Celia; and their four daughters. The elaborate, eccentrically designed mansion houses one masterpiece and 52 rooms--and Celia Lily isn't in any of them. She has vanished without a trace.... Joelle Smithton knows that a few folks in Vanishing Falls believe that she's simple-minded. It's true that Joelle's brain works a little differently--a legacy of shocking childhood trauma. But Joelle sees far more than most people realize, and remembers details that others cast away. For instance, she knows that Celia's husband, Jack, has connections to unsavory local characters whom he's desperate to keep hidden. He's not the only one in town with something to conceal. Even Joelle's own husband, Brian, a butcher, is acting suspiciously. While the police flounder, unable to find Celia, Joelle is gradually parsing the truth from the gossip she hears and from the simple gestures and statements that can unwittingly reveal so much.   Just as the water from the falls disappears into the ground, gushing away through subterranean creeks, the secrets in Vanishing Falls are pulsing through the town, about to converge. And when they do, Joelle must summon the courage to reveal what really happened to Celia, even if it means exposing her own past...… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
Vanishing Falls was an atmospheric mystery with a unique setting that had me eager to pick it up. I've never read a mystery set in the Tasmanian rainforest so a book set there had me instantly intrigued. Also, that cover is absolutely gorgeous! Joelle's character though is what made this book standout for me. She was just one of those characters that I instantly cared about. There is something different about her that the author never fully explains. I think that her past has a lot to do with it even though I didn't feel like we were given enough information to fully confirm that. It's my theory at least (and if you've read this one, let me know if you agree). Anyways, for me this book was more about the characters than the mystery. There were a bunch of different characters and for me I enjoyed reading about them and getting to know their motivations behind their actions. I admit that I wasn't as focused on the mystery itself which isn't a negative at all. I was curious on what had happened to Celia but early on I had a theory on who was behind it all. My enjoyment of this book really came from getting to know more about the characters (especially Joelle) and how all of these different tiny details related to Celia's disappearance. The characters weren't all likable at times but I still wanted to understand them. I really don't know how else to explain it. It was just an intriguing, quieter book that I really enjoyed throughout. I'm looking forward to reading more by this author and seeing what else she has written. The focus on all of the characters and unique setting really made this book stand out for me.

Overall, I enjoyed my time with this book and definitely plan to read more by this author. This is more of a slow burn mystery that really focuses on the characters. I thought that the author did a wonderful job portraying the characters and the struggles that they faced. I think that mystery readers who enjoy quiet mysteries that are character focused will really enjoy this one. I was trying to think of another book that I've read to compare this one to but I really can't. It's unique and a great addition to the mystery genre because of that. Recommended!

Bottom Line: A book with characters that I still think about every now and then.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book thanks to the publisher. Honest thoughts are my own. ( )
  samantha.1020 | Dec 3, 2020 |
A cozy & nuanced mystery set in Tasmania surrounding the disappearance of glamours Celia, a mysterious painting & how the drug trade can destroy a town. Joelle is a woman who appears to be on the autism spectrum, and when younger survived a horrible childhood to grow up to be a happy wife and mother. She is pulled into the mystery of the woman's disappearance, due to bad luck & a desire to please the people around her. ( )
  KateHonig | Dec 3, 2020 |
This is a mystery about the disappearance of Claire Lily. Each chapter of this book is rather awkwardly broken into sections describing the doings of three characters - Joelle, a mentally challenged wife and mother, Claire’s husband Jack, a wealthy art collector, and Jacks’s friend Cliff, a meth-addicted chicken farmer. That made the book bloated and disjointed and brought in a lot of details that were irrelevant to the mystery. When I finally got to the end I was annoyed that I had slogged through all of the red herrings for nothing (and there were too many dead dogs). It also took too long to actually get to Lily’s disappearance. The book should have stuck with Joelle and explored the situation solely through her child-like interpretation of events.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher. ( )
  fhudnell | Sep 4, 2020 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
In this moody mystery the wife of a wealthy art collector has disappeared. Set in Tasmania, the rainy lushness only adds to the slow tension of the book as meanders all over Tasmania as the hunt for the killer goes on. And as many people do they ignore people who think more slowly, so Joelle, the butcher’s wife is ignored and that’s too bad. She is very observant. The centerpiece home where Celia who disappears lives is a calendar house, a house with 52 rooms—details of a home that revolve around a calendar. Somehow, I suspect this calendar house had some symbolism, but I couldn’t see it. But I’m glad Wikipedia made it easy to find out more about calendar houses, and there is one in Tasmania. ( )
  brangwinn | Aug 28, 2020 |
Vanishing Falls is quite a twisty little thriller. As the tale continues several reasons that could be a motive amongst several different people emerge. I only suspected towards the end of the novel but not quite to the lengths that person went and what they were after encompassed – I was shocked. The moody atmosphere in which Poppy Gee describes the town of Vanishing Falls and the surrounding area is spectacular. I would absolutely visit this area of the world just based on her descriptions of it – as well as visiting Calendar House. I had never heard about calendar houses before reading this book and it is an interesting but strange concept upon which to build a house. According to our dear old Wikipedia, they’re rare – I would be curious if just not many of them survived or if not many were built in the first place.

At least one town mentioned in the book does exist – Launceston which I found interesting and I would love to know if there was a specific area that inspired the town of Vanishing Falls. Vanishing Falls, which was once prosperous is now struggling to find its footing and so are its residents. Many have fallen upon hard times and that has left the town ripe for many issues to take root. I have witnessed some of the same problems emerge in several small towns near me but it was mostly the result of a large influx of people moving to the area and others being forced out to surrounding areas because they could no longer afford where they had been living.

The pacing leans more towards a slow burn – but it definitely wasn’t uninteresting and there is quite a bit going on. It took me a little while to settle in with the characters of the story but you can’t help but like Joelle. Out of the five main characters we spend time with there is only one person who doesn’t have something about themselves that they’d rather not let see the light of day. In a small town – that’s almost impossible. The only supporting character that saw a lot of page time that seemed a little flat was Brian – Joelle’s husband. It didn’t really feel like I got to know him as a person; rather just details about him, things he was doing or had done.

I would highly recommend Vanishing Falls to readers who enjoy thrillers, suspense, and murder mysteries. I really enjoyed being transported to a part of the world I rarely get the chance to read about through a thriller. A big thank you to William Morrow (via the Scene of the Crime Group) for the opportunity to read and review this excellent thriller – all opinions are my own. ( )
  thereviewbooth | Aug 6, 2020 |
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One of CrimeReads Most Anticipated Books of the Year! "This literary thriller paints as vivid a landscape as any book coming out this summer...Gee creates a lush, tantalizing world that readers will want to travel into deeper and deeper."--CrimeReads Celia Lily is rich, beautiful, and admired. She's also missing. And the search for the glamorous socialite is about to expose all the dark, dirty secrets of Vanishing Falls... Deep within the lush Tasmanian rainforest is the remote town of Vanishing Falls, a place with a storied past. The town's showpiece, built in the 1800s, is its Calendar House--currently occupied by Jack Lily, a prominent art collector and landowner; his wife, Celia; and their four daughters. The elaborate, eccentrically designed mansion houses one masterpiece and 52 rooms--and Celia Lily isn't in any of them. She has vanished without a trace.... Joelle Smithton knows that a few folks in Vanishing Falls believe that she's simple-minded. It's true that Joelle's brain works a little differently--a legacy of shocking childhood trauma. But Joelle sees far more than most people realize, and remembers details that others cast away. For instance, she knows that Celia's husband, Jack, has connections to unsavory local characters whom he's desperate to keep hidden. He's not the only one in town with something to conceal. Even Joelle's own husband, Brian, a butcher, is acting suspiciously. While the police flounder, unable to find Celia, Joelle is gradually parsing the truth from the gossip she hears and from the simple gestures and statements that can unwittingly reveal so much.   Just as the water from the falls disappears into the ground, gushing away through subterranean creeks, the secrets in Vanishing Falls are pulsing through the town, about to converge. And when they do, Joelle must summon the courage to reveal what really happened to Celia, even if it means exposing her own past...

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