Wow – I am forgetting to finish and put up my blogs! – Finished this one a few days ago. I picked it up because a friend in a reading group recommended it. No group involved with this one.
All Things Cease To Appear
by Elizabeth Brundage
2017 – 466 pages
Read by Kristen Potter
Rating – A / literary crime
The book opens with the death of a young woman in a farmhouse in upstate New York and her husband and family’s reactions. It then switches to the two- thread back story which joins about midway. – Complex structure.
First there is the backstory of the very dysfunctional couple who committed suicide in that same old farmhouse. They were the parents of several young boys The boys are taken in by an uncle in town.
A few years later a young couple with a small child buy the place and then several months later she is found murdered in her bed. (NOT a spoiler – it’s relates to the opening scene when George is the obvious suspect). The story of George and Catherine Clare goes back to how they met and is told from the woman’s point of view. George is a PhD student and then a professor of art history at the college in upstate New York. He is the only child of an upper class couple with their own problems. He’s been a very difficult person from the day he and his wife met. But Catherine might not be without her own issues – she senses a haunting, a spirit presence. When she finds out about the prior deaths in the house she worries.
The story of the boys and the Clares intertwines
in many ways and it’s riveting to see how the murder transpires – and there is a bit of “who-done-it” in there because although all fingers seem to point to George, there are certainly other possibilities.
There’s also a rather literary element in that George specializes in the art of the Hudson River School of American art and that’s pretty much where they live. Brundage brings in the ideas of light and dark as well as dropping the names of a lot of artists, particularly George Inness who painted the area, and literary figures including Emanuel Swedenborg, an 18th century Swedish inventor and theologian/mystic – those two connect rather ambitiously on the level of spirituality and the afterlife. George did his thesis based on discounting the connection between Swedenborg and Inness while Catherine might be sensing the spirit of Swedenborg’s angels. (at least that’s what I get – it’s rather peripheral to the main plot.)
I really enjoyed this book except for two things. The stretch between the spiritual theme and the basic murder plot was pretty slender and not necessary imo although it did add a certain texture. Also, there seemed to be a bit too much sex in it for my tastes. I suppose that was also a part of the plot in a way but still – it was kind of disturbing. That said, yes, I recommend it to anyone who enjoys a literary thriller without being in any way a formulaic mystery.