I am very choosy with my suspense/thriller novels, and came to Paul Tremblay's Disappearance at Devil's Rock with great excitement. Finally, I thought, the disappearance of a child that is somehow related to darker, more horror-based themes. If only.
The devilish aspects of the story set up some interesting premises: the legend of Devil's rock, where supposedly the devil, being tricked, has been trapped inside the rock, and the use of masonic/occult symbols in the hobo pennies created by Arnold, a twenty-something self-professed "seer" who is involved with three young teenagers when one of them goes missing.
The spectral, ghost-like elements were interesting as well. The doppelganger of Tommy, the missing boy, was well described, but all these things amounted to nothing really-almost just flavor text. These more interesting elements take up very little room in the book, and don't affect the plot in any meaningful way. Which was very sad, because the ideas were relatively new and had a lot of potential.
Instead, I was inundated with a mundane story about the fruitless search for Tommy following his disappearance, which focused on his mother and her household, sans her son. We are also privy to extensive flashbacks via Tommy's journal pages, which mysteriously appear at intervals, to explain how Arnold came to be part of his little group. Because of the framing of that story, it was robbed of narrative tension or urgency. In addition, an enormous amount of time is relegated to recounting every useless detail of conversation between young teens and an obsession with zombies that could have had meaning and gone somewhere, but didn't.
The main thrust of the story was attempting to display an authentic window into young life, and predominantly the force of deceit for young children, the almost second nature of lying at that age. While that might be true, it doesn't make for compelling storytelling, and I felt that so much time was spent on useless characterization that the things that might have made this story interesting were arbitrarily inserted, and didn't really do anything to help the very dull and dreary plot of a naive, malleable kid being led astray by an older boy. And the devil should be anything but dull.
K Rating: 1/5
**New Author Goal: 23 out of 30**