When You Disappeared by John Marrs

34884315When Catherine wakes up alone one morning, she thinks her husband has gone for a run before work. But Simon never makes it to the office. His running shoes are by the front door. Nothing is missing—except him.

Catherine knows Simon must be in trouble. He wouldn’t just leave her. He wouldn’t leave the children.

But Simon knows the truth—about why he left and what he’s done. He knows things about his marriage that it would kill Catherine to find out. The memories she holds onto are lies.

While Catherine faces a dark new reality at home, Simon’s halfway around the world, alive and thriving. He’s doing whatever it takes to stay one step ahead of the truth.

But he can’t hide forever, and when he reappears twenty-five years later, Catherine will finally learn who he is.

And wish she’d stayed in the dark.

Source Format Pages Publisher Genre Publication Date
Amazon ebook 350 Thomas & Mercer Thriller July 13th, 2017

After reading The One by Marrs, I was very interested in trying out more by the author. Two quite different books in terms of subject matter, but both very solid and strong. To be honest, When You Disappeared definitely sucked the life out of me, but in a good way.

If you gave structures time, detail and attention, they would protect you. You would be safe beneath their roofs. People never truly offered such guarantees.

John Marrs is a thriller author equivalent of a spider. He weaves the best and most complicated of webs. I believe it was only Chapter Two when already my mind was spinning with all the teases and hints, and… guys, I love it when a book makes my heart beat a little faster with anticipation. I like to squirm while I wait for the revelations.

There is a difference in between a story that drags towards a conclusion and tension-filled slow-burn of a progression. Marrs, in this case, has mastered the slow burn with so much detail… Detail, that is all bloody relevant and will not allow you to get bored or your eyes to glaze over. Detail, that will leave you on tenterhooks and your mind in a twist, jumping in between 2 characters like a lost puppy to find the one to root for. Because, for me, for a while, it wasn’t entirely clear who was the ‘bad guy‘ here and I was not willing to cast judgement until I had reached the end.

It would be so much simpler if I, too, were six feet under.

The main characters in this story are husband Simon and wife Catherine. Childhood sweethearts with their life all sorted- the house, the kids, the income. Except, all has not been going well recently. Following a loss in the family, Simon has been supporting his wife to come back from the suffocating hell that is grief and depression, and is now ready to leave.

It was simply too late; we were irreparable. Stones had been cast and glasshouses lay in shards all around us. Inside I was dead; it was time for my exterior to follow suit.

When you Disappeared is a mindblowing account of the past 25 years, all grinding to a halt in the present and there is a lot of ground to cover from moments of joy, to destruction of both people and things. As I mentioned, I was hesitant to dislike either Simon or Catherine from early on. The indication that they both may be to blame was holding me back… until slowly but surely, the true nature of one of them started unraveling and then? My hate was not holding back. OK, hate is a strong word. But mainly because I ended up pitying rather than hating. It was very easy for me to imagine Simon’s and Catherine’s lives as a reality, because that’s what we humans are and do- we live our lives into epic messy proportions at times.

There is a lot of cause&effect happening in this book. Some of it so incredibly profound I found myself trying to comprehend the bigger picture. I am a true believer that we all translate life’s events and happenings purely based on our personal belief and moral systems and as such I truly pushed myself to see things from their respective shoes. In that sense, the book was an emotionally draining adventure… I loved it… I love being left feeling like a wet rag that’s been wrung to an inch of its life.  But eventually, what it all boiled down to was a truly simple life’s truth- communication is important!

The frustrations around seeing a character make stupid (stupid-stupid) decisions based on something they were too selfish to investigate, made me love this book all the more. It’s one of those times I truly love to hate a character. It’s easy to hate and let it ruin the whole book for you, but in my mind, it’s what makes a character perfect- whether they are the most decent or most despicable- it shows they have been well written and created to get a reaction out of the reader. In this case, we have the classic scenario of someone truly believing they had the right to consider themselves a victim, and then ride the hole out of that ”easy way out’ excuse because they’re in denial.

You can either learn from your parents’ mistakes, or repeat them and use them as an excuse for your own behaviour.

Usually, stories start with a conflict and then wind down towards the conclusion with the occasional extra conflict to keep you hooked. When You Disappeared starts with a conflict and snowballs into a complete shitstorm before finally offering the relief by truth. This is the best kind of story. It’s dark… it’s very very dark and there is no respite to be had throughout it as all sorts of events (which would probably deserve trigger warning labels) get layered on thick and fast.

Marrs has done a great job to really pull the reader into all of the emotions Simon and Catherine feel. You feel their pain, their hope, their despair… and because their very complicated web that spans 25 years pulled me in so thoroughly, the more satisfying I found the ending, the truth. Yes, the truth really does set you free! But it also hurts like a mofo.

Nobody would feel the love for it I’d felt. No one would hear its cry for help like I did, or restore it like it deserved. I would not let others ruin it like they had done before. I would be the one to choose how it got the finale it deserved.

I also realized that the root of all bitterness lies in a sense of self-entitlement and one of the characters in the book had it in spades! Self-entitlement is not a step too far from delusion. It’s OK to be selfish and want things, it’s OK to be ambitious and claw a way through P&S towards a better life, but it’s always worth considering if all sides of the coin have communicated their truth, if the impact of one’s actions will not destroy others’ lives and most important of all- if you don’t use your own personal resources to make it to the top, you have no right to destroy what doesn’t belong to you. <spoiler>That scene where Simon burns down the hostel was probably the most shocking scene for me in terms of his deluded selfishness and it still reels me up!</spoiler>

Yeah, yeah, yeah… I haven’t given you much in the way of a summary, but believe you me, this book has so much going on we’d be here for a week and everything is a potential spoiler for those who are really good at sniffing out the clues and adding them together.

I really, really enjoyed When You Disappeared… so much, I did, even though it was covered in horrible events (suicide, murder, death of child, drug abuse, rape), wrapped in characters bound to anger, frustrate, sadden. The POVs and the past/present delivery works favors for this story and I can easily say any upcoming book from Marrs will find its way to my Kindle. Quality!

You only see in people what you see in yourself- damaged goods.

When You Disappeared on Goodreads ¦ Amazon UK ¦ US

27 comments

    • Thank you… yes, I did notice it was titled something else in the past… eh, I guess with the new ‘popularity’ of author and resending older works back into press deserved a new ‘branding/packaging’… it can be bloody risky and confusing… Thank you 🙂 I hope you liked the book yourself when you read it?

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  1. I’ve been so looking forward to this! Brilliant, brilliant review, really! It’s incredible how he breathed life into this story and stand by and see the years going by because of this ’cause and consequence’. I was pretty quick to judge though ;-). It’s so tragic in the end.

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  2. Is it weird to say that I like books that suck the life out me a little? (probably a little 😉 ) Gosh I’m not a huge fan of spiders (love the metaphor!) but this author sounds awesome!!! This review is so vivid and your descriptions are so colourful, it makes me desperate to pick this up!! Gotta pick this up! Great review!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. OKAY, WOW!! Reading you review reminded me of Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey. I must say mystery was never my kinda genre but plots like these…OHH MY GODD!!!!! I HAVE THIS URGE TO GET OFF MYASS AND GO BUY THIS BOOK – RIGHT NOW!!! ;p

    Your review pulled me in the same way as you say the book did to you. 🙂 I AM SOO VERY GLAD I HAVE FOUND YOUR BLOG NOW!! LOVE IT! ❤ 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow, this sounds like one hell of a complex book! I like the notion of cause and effect and imagine it was indeed quite profound. Every single action or decision has an effect, sometimes a monumental one. Definitely a book that I need to check out because I need to know how someone can disappear for 25 years!

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  5. This book sounds absolutely amazing! The amount of detail and care taken into building this suspenseful and tense story, with such flawed characters one loves to hate, and the slow build towards the final stance, where answers are delivered… And you can’t quite wrap your mind around what is the truth until the very end… Masterful, in the very least!
    Amazing review, Liz, and I’m really glad you enjoyed this one so much 🙂

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  6. Boy does this sound really well-written. Your love for it screams throughout this review. I do love reading your thoughts on a good thriller, they somehow manage to make you feel emotions in extremes. Was sort of surprised the whole review started off with a spider analogy. That has to be a testament of your love for this book. Talking about spiders as if it doesn’t create images in your mind that would repulse for the rest of the day… 😛 Also love how the author makes you invest so much emotion into the story and the characters. Fantastic review, Liz! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you- so much thanks for this lovely comment, Lashaan… means a lot coming from you 🙂 ❤ yeah… you know, it's hard for me to really get all riled up but good books manage to get me rightly twisted and I love it 😀 I also love that my reviews manage to present how the book made me feel… Thanks again ❤

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