#aww2020 · 2020 Reviews · Australian · contemporary fiction · new release

New Release Book Review: Vanishing Falls by Poppy Gee

Title: Vanishing Falls

Author: Poppy Gee

Published: November 17th 2020

Publisher: Booktopia Editions

Pages: 432

Genres:  Fiction, Contemporary

RRP: $29.99

Rating: 4.5 stars

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…

Review:

‘If you want to get away with murder, Vanishing Falls is the place to do it.’

In an ode to classic whodunnit mystery novels in the tradition of Agatha Christie, with a rich Tasmanian atmospheric backdrop, Vanishing Falls is the second novel from Australian writer Poppy Gee. Following on from her 2013 release Bay of Fires, Vanishing Falls allows this versatile author to explore community dynamics, class differences, relationships and a perplexing murder mystery. This slow burn Australian contemporary fiction offering is packed full of dirty deeds, secrets, puzzles and conjecture.

Vanishing Falls is a story of riches, secrets, glamour and underhanded ways. Poppy Gee’s second novel takes the reader deep into the dense forest community of Vanishing Falls where this tight knit town is plagued by past deeds and present-day troubles. At the heart of the problems in the tiny rainforest town is Calendar House, owned by Jack Lily, an art collector and his family. When a wealthy socialite disappears without a trace from this opulent mansion retreat, a mystery ensues. When Joelle Smithton, a local woman with remarkable abilities shows interest in this case, suspicion is aroused. With doubts cast on everyone from the owner of Calendar House, through to Joelle’s own husband, Joelle’s natural ability to read people and situations comes in useful as the police struggle to crack this case. As secrets begin to surface and the town gossip mill surges, the truth about the disappearance of missing socialite Celia brings about eruptive change to the closed community of Vanishing Falls.

Employing the use of a shifting style of narration, which is shared between three separate narrators, Vanishing Falls provides the reader with plenty of different guises to contend with. With a generous cast of secondary characters to support the primary players, Poppy Gee’s latest is full of interesting leads. While I found it hard to develop any like or appreciation for the protagonists of Vanishing Falls, I valued their interactions and dialogue interplay. Gee has devised a stage set of murky characters where our assumptions are fully contested. It certainly kept me active and engaged with the story at hand.

While on the topic of characters, I must say that the Tasmanian landscape which acts as the stunning backdrop for Vanishing Falls reeled me right in to this tale. I also came to the understanding that the setting was an additional character. The overwhelming presence of Vanishing Falls as a separate entity, shifting and shaping with the protagonist set seemed clear to me. There is no doubt that this unique and raw locale managed to have a weighty role to play in the proceedings of the novel overall. Drawing on her own upbringing in Tasmania, Gee takes the opportunity to fully explore the background of her setting base. This talented writer delves head-first into the history, past actions defining the region and new practices defining this Australian rainforest backdrop. I was unable to tear myself away from the pages of Vanishing Falls, as I was seduced by the magnetism of the central location base.

Underneath the baffling murder mystery case that defines the direction of this novel is a critical gaze into a number of other key influences to Vanishing Falls and the disappearance at Calendar House. Gee draws in themes of wealth, class, disadvantage, social inequality, financial woes, income sources, drugs, family tension, reputation, power and long held secrets through her presentation of Vanishing Falls. I also really connected to the art world influence that formed a significant component of Gee’s novel. It is a full and involving tale, with a slow burn style approach, that definitely kept my mind ticking over until the end.

Well written, deeply mysterious and gripping, Poppy Gee’s Vanishing Falls is a good tale for readers who like to engage in plenty of guesswork when presented with a classic whodunnit story. I throw my full support behind Poppy Gee’s solid second novel and look forward to future works by this talented author.

Vanishing Falls by Poppy Gee was published on 17th November 2020 by Booktopia Editions. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.

To learn more about the author of Vanishing Falls, Poppy Gee, visit here.

*Thanks extended to the author and publisher for providing a free copy of this book for review purposes.

Vanishing Falls is book #137 of the 2020 Australian Women Writers Challenge

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