The Disappearing Body

Written by David Grand
Review by Rosemary Edghill

This is an extremely literary second novel by an author whose first book, Louse, was selected as a New York Times Notable Book. Set somewhere in the late 30’s (all dates are given with a dash, but it is post-Prohibition and pre-WWII) in a thinly disguised New York (referred to only as “The City”), the non-linear story is only slowly revealed to the reader. When Victor Ribe, an unreformed junkie, is clandestinely released from jail after serving 15 years for a murder he didn’t commit, he finds himself on the periphery of a complex plot designed to nail the corrupt police detectives who framed him for murder, jailed private detective Benny Rudolph, and killed ace reporter Sam Rapaport. But the soi-disant heroes of this fragmented tale are just as corrupt as the villains. Though Victor eventually finds happiness, and some of the guilty are punished, the reader feels no real sense of victory.

There is no strong sense of historical period in this novel, either in attitudes or setting. From the characters’ actions and motivations The Disappearing Body has much more a sense of the Fifties than the Thirties, particularly the violent anti-Communist sentiment that forms a linchpin of the plot.

The publisher calls this a “noir thriller,” and because of similarities in style and content it should have a strong appeal to those who enjoyed the recent Carter Beats the Devil by Glen David Gold. Warnings for foul language, excessive violence, and drug use.