Review: Something happened to the people living in the gold-mining town of Abandon, Colorado in the year 1893. The town, situated at elevation 11,000 feet, was at one time a bustling hub of gold rush-era production. Mining families settled in the town for the promise of a lucrative and better life. Then on Christmas Day, the entire population simply vanished into thin air. The phenomenon had been a mystery for more than a century, stumping historians and evoking the similar mysterious disappearance of the lost colony of Roanoke Island. What is even more remarkable is that not even a single human bone was found within a 100 mile radius of the town. So what happened to the population of Abandon? Could it be true what people now say about the town being haunted by the ghosts of those who up and vanished on that fateful Christmas morning?
Abandon opens in the year 1893 with an eerie scene in which a mule driver wanders into the town searching for his missing brother, only to find the mining community completely deserted. This is an odd occurrence since his last stop to Abandon only a week before revealed a town populated with hundreds of people. The scene ends rather shockingly and catapults you into modern times where we are introduced to a brand new cast of characters. All of these characters, for different reasons, decide to embark on an expedition into the ghost town in an effort to discover exactly what caused every man, woman, and child in the town to seemingly fall off the face of the earth. Abigail Foster is a freelance journalist who comes to Abandon to meet up with her long-estranged father Lawrence, a history professor at a local university. Lawrence has been obsessed with the mystery behind the disappearance of the town of Abandon for decades and convinces Abigail that accompanying him on an expedition would make a great story, as well as give them a chance to perhaps heal some animosity that exists between them. Tagging along with Lawrence and Abigail are a psychic and paranormal photographer husband and wife team who lost their child at a very young age, as well as two tour guides hired by Lawrence to lead them through the deserted town. Was there a supernatural component connected to the disappearances? This is just one of the many questions that the expedition team has to face as they embark on their journey. As the story unfolds, we are periodically sent back to 1893 and to the events leading up to the incident so that the reader can essentially experience what the characters during that time experienced. These flashbacks also serve to give us incremental clues as to the potentially dark secrets that put the town on a collision course with disaster. As Abigail and the others conduct their expedition of Abandon, they only begin to scratch the surface of a sinister past that has its roots in the once-prosperous goldmine, when they are violently interrupted by a group of armed men who are also interested in the town for very different reasons. Who are these men and why are they so interested in Abandon? Couple this conflict with a snowstorm that is closing in on the area and the possibility of ever finding out what occurred over a century ago is placed in immediate peril.
Blake Crouch has truly delivered a winner of a thriller with Abandon. This is a uniquely multi-layered thriller where just when the reader feels comfortable in assuming that they know what is going on, the author sweeps you back to the 1893 storyline where those assumptions are tested and put into doubt. I thought that the interspersed flashbacks worked especially effectively because they served as an explanation of what was only being speculated at in the modern storyline. It is a real balancing act when using this type of method for a book, but Mr. Crouch pulled it off incredibly well. The author gives small tastes without revealing too much and I always felt like I wanted to continue reading to find out what the ultimate mystery was. I was also caught up in the individual stories of the characters and what motivated each of them to explore Abandon. These are truly human stories that everyone can relate to and prevented the book from being just an "empty" thriller. My only criticism, if you can call it that, was the significant amount of detailed and excessive violence, which is just a matter of personal taste. Just know going in that Mr. Crouch describes every agonizing detail of the bad things that happen to each character. If this does not bother you, then dive into this story because you will definitely be rewarded for your investment. All in all, Abandon by Blake Crouch is a superb thriller wrapped in the mystery of a town that one day simply ceased to be. Going along for the ride to unlock this mystery is half the fun and lends an intriguing storyline to a tremendously entertaining thriller. Abandon is highly recommended for both mystery and thriller fans alike.
Special thanks to Nick Taraborrelli for contributing his review of Abandon.
Acknowledgment: Thomas & Mercer provided a copy of Abandon for this review.
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
The Last Town
Thomas & Mercer (Trade Paperback), July 2014
ISBN-13: 9781477822586; ISBN-10: 1477822585
Location(s) referenced in Abandon: Idaho
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Abandon by Blake Crouch
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Format: Trade Paperback
Publication Date: September 2015
List Price: $15.95
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Page Author: Lance Wright
Site Publisher: Mysterious Reviews
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