A book as lyrically written, frequently shocking and immensely moving as Elizabeth Brundage’s All Things Cease to Appear transcends categorization. Is the book a 'police procedural'? In part. A 'gothic mystery'? Incidentally. A novel of 'psychological suspense'? In spades. A chilling case-study of a serial soul-killer? A 'Spoon River'-style panorama of small-town life in upstate New York in the late 1970s? A parable of good and evil informed by the theological notions of the 18th-century Swedish mystic Emanuel Swedenborg? Yes, yes and yes. It was, perhaps, for such extraordinary books that the term 'literary thriller' was coined.
...this is a character sketch: of a marriage, a sociopath, a family destroyed by the economy, the things we do for love — all finely drawn within the confined environment of a creaking old farmhouse on a homestead in a town far, far away. The better to scare you with, my dear ... All of the [characters] are sympathetic and suspicious in equal measure, a result of Brundage’s ability to peel away the onionskin layers of emotion that define any relationship. As the clues accumulate and the killer is revealed, the truth becomes both horrifying and inevitable. In the end, justice is done and redemption found, though not as one might expect, which makes the book all the more satisfying.
Exquisitely gut-churning ... Brundage’s elegant exploration of motive—in all its directions—sets this book apart ... Paranormal activity hangs in the atmosphere [and] Brundage takes us compellingly inside the perverse machinations of a violently narcissistic mind [that] recalls Patricia Highsmith’s talented Mr. Ripley.
Brundage unwinds the murder investigation slowly, meandering through George and Catherine’s marriage and weaving in the story of the Hales, the previous owners of the house. Learning who killed Catherine isn’t the point—it’s obvious from the opening pages—but that doesn’t lessen the pleasure of this dark, chilling drama.