2019 Reading List: Watch Me Disappear by Janelle Brown

I was took a mini vacation to Florida this past week and needed a good mystery book to keep me occupied by the pool. I finished Watch Me Disappear, by Janelle Brown, in less than five days.

When I first started the book, I thought it would feel like a template: interesting and captivating, but not particularly new or unexpected. And I was okay with that. But things definitely got a little twisted at the end, so I give this one five stars.

In this book, Jonathan’s wife (Olive’s mother), Billie, disappears one day. She went on a solo hike and never came back. The search team found her shattered cell phone and one of her boots, and came to the conclusion that she died. But her body was never found.

One year later, Jonathan is filing for a death certificate, primarily to get her life insurance money, since he’s now broke after quitting his job and paying for Olive’s expensive private high school. He’s sad, but starting to move on. He’s spending more time with one of Billie’s old friends and he’s writing a memoir about his lost love.

Meanwhile, Olive starts seeing visions of her mother, scenes where her mother is talking to her, telling her to keep looking.

Obviously most people think Olive is crazy, but they humor her as she runs around trying to find people who may have seen her mother in the last year.

As soon as Olive mentions her visions to Jonathan, he coincidentally starts revealing secrets his wife had hidden from him during their entire marriage. He finds old photographs, goes through her computer and finds password-protected files, goes through bank statements and finds a series of withdrawals before she disappeared. Telltale signs that this was no accident, that she was planning something, and that she may not be dead after all.

I won’t ruin the ending for you. But I do want to say a few things.

If my spouse disappeared suddenly, I would do everything possible for as long as it took to find him. The search for Billie in Desolation Wilderness – a wilderness – only lasted 9 days. Jonathan didn’t go through her belongings for a whole year. He didn’t even think to go through his own shared bank account, despite the fact that he was struggling to pay for Olive’s tuition and general household bills. Sure, they found her cell phone and a boot, but why wouldn’t the police or investigators have also scraped out every other corner of possibilities? Why wouldn’t the police have asked Jonathan about his bank accounts, why wouldn’t they have thoroughly searched her computer, why wouldn’t Jonathan have gone through her boxes of stuff, looking for clues?

Throughout the book, he talks about the interesting relationship that he and Billie have. They had secrets, small ones, he believed. He left her alone, didn’t know where she was sometimes, didn’t communicate everything with her. He’d noticed her growing distant at times, from both him and their daughter. All these things should have at least prompted him to look through her stuff, if only to get answers to some of the things she did while she was alive. They had a weird and unusual marriage, so it’s not realistic that neither he nor the police investigating the incident would go through her stuff.

Of course, it’s all necessary for the plot of the story. And just wait until you get to the end. The answer to this mystery isn’t at all what you might be expecting.


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