Monday, 23 August 2010

The Vanishing

I haven't read many books as terrifying as this one, particularly one so short! From beginning to end it had me on the edge of my seat but not because of violence, the book is refreshingly devoid of it, but the author's masterful use of suspense and common fears among us all; What would you do if your partner went to buy something at a gas station in the middle of nowhere in a foreign country, and never came back? (I understand some will say “celebrate” but for most of us I imagine it would be a horrifying thought)

Rex and Saskia are a young Dutch couple on a road trip in France when the unthinkable happens; they stop off at a gas station to rest, Saskia walks to the station and disappears without any trace. There is so much tension within the book you could almost cut it with a knife (then tension I mean, obviously you can cut a book) The story jumps forward and we find Rex trying to move on with his life. He has a new fiancé and things seem to be going well however it isn't long before unpleasant memories and emotions begin to surface and we realise Rex hasn't gotten over it at all because, eight years on, Saskia's disappearance is still a complete mystery. Just when Rex has resigned himself to never knowing what happened to Saskia a mysterious man approaches and offers Rex the chance to find out what happened all those years ago...but at a price.

The story is straightforward, original and very intense. The short length of the book ensures it never gets bogged down in unnecessary detail and moves at a really good pace. I never got bored with it and finished it the same day I started it. The characters are genuine, well thought out and interesting.

If I had to criticise the book at all it would be that it was too short.

It is also a story that really sticks in the mind, which is good from the point of view that it is a good story but bad from the point of view that you don't want to take your eyes off your partner in public for a while after! My wife wandered off in the supermarket today, a bad habit of hers, and I must admit when I couldn't find her right away the book did spring to mind, albeit briefly (I'm not completely neurotic!)

Two movie versions have been made of the book; one is a Dutch movie made in 1988 the other is a Hollywood effort from 1993 starring Sandra Bullock, Kieffer Sutherland and Jeff Bridges. I haven't seen either of these but will keep my eye out.

Verdict 4/5



  1. I didn't even realize this was a book, but I've seen both film versions. I cannot impress upon you strongly enough how much better the Dutch version is. The American remake is terrible. The movie itself is okay, not fabulous, but it trashed the ending by tacking on more material. (And if the book ends the way the Dutch film does, you'll see how that's a problem.)

  2. I shall be looking out for this book - sounds excellent and creepy.

  3. This sounds like it would be a good read for around Halloween!

  4. I feel like I have done my own spot of vanishing. Thanks for the recommendation, this sounds like it should be read well before bed time.

  5. @ Teresa: I'll see if I can get hold of a copy of the Dutch version, I must admit the trailer for the US version didn't look that good.

    @ Annabel: It certainly is creepy and well worth a read :o)

    @ Brenna: I think you are right, it certainly makes your skin crawl in places!

    @ Petty: I'm intrigued, when have you vanished? I read the book in broad daylight and it still frightened me! lol

  6. After watching the Dutch version of the story, I had such a hard time falling asleep at night. I also would get waves of creepiness washing over me throughout the day. It was a truely sinister was so good. I honestly don't think I'd be able to make it through the book though, the movie was just so creepy! Probably the only time in 15 years I've been truy scared after watching a movie.

  7. @ Irishrosedkm: wow, thats quite a recommendation, I will have to keep my eye out for the Dutch version I think! I do like a good scare...

  8. I watched the US version years ago and recognised it immediately reading your review. Not knowing there was anything to compare it too, all I can say is the US film was very effective-- tense, agonizing, maddening and horrifying. The kind of film that wears a person plumb out-- Don't think I could take the Dutch film if it is better.

  9. Oh yes, like Irishrose said-- very sinister-- and it sticks with you because it could really happen.

    I'm bad to wander off too--- but my spouse is completely neurotic about my whereabouts-- he always assumes I've been kidnapped or had a wreck-- very annoying but after being reminded of this film...

  10. I saw the dutch movie version of this and it has haunted me for years. I'll never forget the ending which of course was completely different in the Hollywood Keith Sutherland version.

  11. @ Lesa: It's good to see someone saying something positive about the US film version, it is made all the more frightening because it could happen and I guess lots of people do disappear and are never seen again but I suppose thats what an effective horror writer does; play on our fears.

    @ Mrs B: I really must get a copy of the dutch version at some point, it sounds great!