Written by Blake Crouch
Review by Phyllis T. Smith

In 2009, Abigail Foster, a journalist enticed by the prospect of a good story, is recruited by her estranged father, a history professor, to trek into the Colorado wilderness and investigate Abandon, a ghost town. Its name, quite apt as it turns out, was taken from Dante’s inscription on the entrance to hell, “Abandon hope all ye who enter here.” Why did the town’s entire population disappear on a single day, Christmas of 1893? Abigail hopes to find the answer. This novel, a dark, harrowing thriller with an historical twist, takes the reader back and forth in time, and tells two interrelated stories, each full of dread.

Two casts of characters—one in the present, one in 1893—are presented quickly. In 1893, the author sketches a whole community. I have to admit I struggled to keep the characters straight. Some, like the female bartender in 1893, an accused murderess kept chained as she serves drinks to customers, are vividly drawn. Others are barely described. A character list would have been a great help.

As Abigail, her father, two wilderness guides, and two paranormal investigators make their way toward Abandon, the author sets the scene—his descriptions of nature are achingly beautiful—and then, when the reader least expects it, unlooses horrendous violence. It would be giving too much away to say what the source is, but the effect is pure terror. Abigail and her father are suddenly caught up in a struggle for survival. Their troubled bond adds depth to the story, as love and pain in the relationship between parent and child resonate in both the present and past. The plot is fast-moving, and its two threads finally come together in a way that is highly satisfying but not for the squeamish.