Saturday, April 10, 2010

Mystery Book Review: Abandon by Blake Crouch

Mysterious Reviews: Mystery, Suspense, Thriller and Crime Novel Reviews, edited by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books


by
Non-series

St. Martin's Minotaur (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0-312-53740-9 (0312537409)
ISBN-13: 978-0-312-53740-1 (9780312537401)
Publication Date: July 2009
List Price: $25.99

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Abandon by Blake Crouch
Buy Abandon by Blake Crouch

Review: Blake Crouch’s novel is a masterfully crafted blend of an historical back story and a modern-day search to explain the mysterious disappearance of the citizens of a Colorado mining town over Christmas 1893. Truly, a raw, rapid fire action-adventure whether in elucidating the past or in describing the present, the story sweeps along to expose both the worst and the best of its characters in their pursuit of lost souls and hidden gold.

A chilling scene of a murder committed by a child on December 28, 1893 in the town of Abandon opens the story, and sets the tone for what follows as the action surges ahead to 2009 when several individuals, each with their own motivations, come together to explore the deserted ghost town. Twenty-eight year-old Abigail Foster is there to do a magazine story. Her estranged father, Lawrence, is there to further his academic career as a historian. And a husband and wife team, one a photographer of the paranormal, the other a psychic, round out the group, that is led by a couple of back country guides. But the readers quickly learn this is no ordinary expedition when mysterious events begin to occur and a trio of brigands appears to violently hijack the search for their own devious reasons.

The focus for both stories is the search for gold. In 1893, the tale involves the vicious killing of a gold mine magnate, the hiding of the loot, a deranged preacher, and the disappearance of everyone from Abandon, as regular or unusual as they may be – and some are quite extraordinary, indeed. In 2009, the scenes concern the unravelling of the past but they also focus on the search for the gold that went missing along with the townsfolk 113 years ago. The protagonists here aren’t quite as colourful as their historical counterparts but they exhibit the same universal characteristics of good and evil, cruelty and courage, and the all-consuming desire to find the cache of gold. Crouch’s clever interplay between the two gripping narratives keeps the suspense at its maximum and the reader wanting to know more at every page. He is also adept at portraying credible characters, whether a deranged preacher, an addled widow, cold-blooded killers of any era, or a young woman trying to repair a damaged relationship with her father even as they struggle through a series of kill or be killed episodes with their captors to finally resolve at tremendous cost the mystery of the missing townspeople. Admittedly Crouch’s "most research-intensive project [that he’s] ever undertaken," his story bears the stamp of authenticity in the details of the mining sites, the images of the region and the language, dialogue and slang of the times.

Abandon is the third of Crouch’s novels, the previous two being the two-volume series, Desert Places and Locked Doors. His next novel due for release in June 2010 involves "a separated family, a rogue FBI agent, human-trafficking, ex-Mexican paramilitary soldiers turned cartel enforcers, and a hedonistic lodge in the wilds of Alaska." Crouch promises it will be equally "pedal-to-the-metal fun."

Special thanks to M. Wayne Cunningham (mw_cunningham@telus.net) for contributing his review of Abandon and to St. Martin's Minotaur for providing a copy of the book for this review.

Review Copyright © 2010 — M. Wayne Cunningham — All Rights Reserved — Reprinted with Permission

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Synopsis (from the publisher): On Christmas Day in 1893, every man, woman and child in a remote gold mining town disappeared, belongings forsaken, meals left to freeze in vacant cabins; and not a single bone was ever found. One hundred thirteen years later, two backcountry guides are hired by a history professor and his journalist daughter to lead them into the abandoned mining town so that they can learn what happened. With them is a psychic, and a paranormal photographer—as the town is rumored to be haunted. A party that tried to explore the town years ago was never heard from again. What this crew is about to discover is that twenty miles from civilization, with a blizzard bearing down, they are not alone, and the past is very much alive.

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