Sera is obsessed with one particular true crime podcast, listening to it morning, noon and night, as she attempts to escape a life filled with disappointments. The host of the podcast, a young woman named Rachel, lives and records on her parent’s ranch in a remote area of Northern California, until she suddenly vanishes.
Sera gets into her car and travels to the place Rachel was last seen, determined to discover what happened to her. But the more Sera learns about the isolated ranch, the more uneasy she feels about what may be happening there. Rachel may not have been the first woman to disappear from the ranch, and she may not be the last...
This book had me from page one! The last book that hooked me so quickly was “A Stranger on the Beach” by Michele Campbell, but for very different reasons. This immediately pulled me into the dysfunction of Sera, revealing how obsessed and subsumed she is by the podcast, to the point of teetering on the edge of reality. Her mixture of desperation and neuroticism reminds me of characters in the stories of Shirley Jackson, who I sort of consider the queen bee of psychological fiction.
What struck me most about the book is how evocative the writing is. There’s an enormous amount of figurative language weaved into the prose, which lends a great deal of specificity, setting it apart from other books in the genre.
I got a slight “House of Leaves” feel while reading this, which is interesting because the story isn’t similar at all. I think what I was responding to was a mix of playful formatting (the story is peppered with former podcast episodes and quotes), as well as Sera’s unrelenting sense of isolation, which is mirrored in the setting.
One theme it explores is the feeling of seclusion versus connection, including the ways in which we muffle or mute ourselves to become what we think others would like us to be in order to fit in. Or, on the extreme end, how we may even give over control of our own lives, at times, to relieve ourselves of the weight of responsibility.
I recommend this for any fans of psychological thrillers, true crime or mysteries!