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The Last to Vanish


The Last to Vanish

“Everyone here is afraid of disappearing. And that no one else would notice before it was too late.” Abigail Lovett has always been on the hunt for a home. Not an actual house, but a place where she feels like she belongs. Ten years ago, after the death of her mother, she found it at The Passage Inn, a rustic bed and breakfast in Cutter’s Pass. This remote North Carolina mountain town attracts tons of visitors for its breathtaking vistas and scenic hiking trails, one that even connects to the Appalachian Trail. But the area is also known for its mysterious history.

Over the years, seven people have disappeared without a trace. The first incident occurred in 1997, when four fraternity brothers (who became known as the “Fraternity Four”) went missing from the trail after beginning an ill-advised, late afternoon hike. Their bodies were never found. This was followed in 2012 by Alice Kelly, a college student, and a young woman named Farrah Jordan seven years later. These disappearances prompted much attention --- mostly unwanted --- as the town relied on the tourist trade for their livelihoods. Landon West, a young journalist, has come to Cutter’s Pass to investigate, but he, too, vanishes into thin air.

"THE LAST TO VANISH grabs you from the first page, quickly establishing the creepy, atmospheric setting, and keeps the story rolling until you reach the end, which you’ll never see coming."

Although it has been a decade since Abby arrived at Cutter’s Pass, the townspeople still remind her that she’s not one of them. Celeste, the owner of The Passage Inn, had lost her beloved husband, Vincent, who also happened to be Abby’s uncle. Celeste hired Abby to work the front desk. She was a natural fit, helpful with the guests, quick on her feet and possessing a deep understanding of grief. Before long, she was managing the inn, which allowed Celeste to take a step back and enjoy a quiet semi-retirement. Abby from the inn is how she is known around town.

Once in charge, Abby hires newcomer Georgia, who comes to the inn similarly lost and in search of direction. Most of the locals, especially the business owners, want to downplay the disappearances, but a few, including Abby’s ex, Cory, make their living capitalizing on them: “Cory ran something between a ghost tour and an excursion for rubberneckers. Thirty bucks for an all-weather guided experience of the history of Cutter’s Pass that started and ended at the Last Stop Tavern in town…. He brought paying customers to the sights of the disappearances, showed them where each person had been spotted in town earlier. Told them what we knew of the missing, what the police had uncovered, and where the investigations had stalled.”

Abby, Georgia and Celeste are committed to protecting their guests, issuing them warnings about their safety: “We reminded them that the number one cause of death out there was exposure. Which could only happen if you made a mistake or got lost. We did not mention the second cause, or the third.” Everything at the inn seems to be going along as they usually do until Landon’s brother, Trey, checks in one stormy evening.

Abby assumes that Trey has come to town to learn about Landon’s fate, or at least seek some closure. She decides to help him navigate the abyss that is Cutter’s Pass. But the more she does, the more she finds the townspeople closing ranks: “This was the implicit contract in Cutter’s Pass, whether we were aware or not: You could be protected, as long as you protected in return. You could live here and love here, be loved in return. Just as long as you promised not to look too closely.” Finding answers to long-held questions is proving to be a lot more complicated --- and dangerous.

THE LAST TO VANISH grabs you from the first page, quickly establishing the creepy, atmospheric setting, and keeps the story rolling until you reach the end, which you’ll never see coming. With her latest outstanding offering, Megan Miranda has proven herself to be among the modern masters of suspense, joining the ranks of Shari Lapena, Ruth Ware and Lisa Jewell. It’s perfect to toss into your bag when you’re headed to the beach or curl up with on a rainy day. Come visit Cutter’s Pass and find out why they say, “There’s something not right about that place.”

Reviewed by Bronwyn Miller on August 2, 2022

The Last to Vanish
by Megan Miranda