cover image All Things Cease to Appear

All Things Cease to Appear

Elizabeth Brundage. Knopf, $25.95 (416p) ISBN 978-1-101-87559-9

Brundage’s (bestselling author of The Doctor’s Wife) searing, intricate novel epitomizes the best of the literary thriller, marrying gripping drama with impeccably crafted prose, characterizations, and imagery. In 1978, Ella and Calvin Hale respond to their farm’s failing fortunes by committing suicide. As their sons, Eddy, Cole, and Wade, are taken in by nearby relatives, their farmhouse in upstate Chosen, N.Y., is bought by outsiders. College professor George Clare, his beautiful wife, Catherine, and their toddler, Franny, buy the house and seem picture-perfect, but appearances deceive. George, an expert in Hudson River painter George Inness (an actual figure, whose artistic theories and Swedenborg-influenced philosophy run through the novel) is a dark soul with a young mistress and a violent history; insecure Catherine takes his abuse until the women’s movement helps empower her to leave him. Then George appears at a neighbor’s door, announcing that he has found Catherine murdered in their bedroom. Though locals blame him, the crime remains unsolved. Seen as cursed and haunted by its dark history, their house sits abandoned until 2004, when Franny, now a surgical resident, re-encounters painful memories and her former babysitter Cole Hale on a trip to empty it. Moving fluidly between viewpoints and time periods, Brundage’s complex narrative requires and rewards close attention. Succeeding as murder mystery, ghost tale, family drama, and love story, her novel is both tragic and transcendent. Agent: Linda Chester, Linda Chester Literary Agency. (Mar.)