Horror writer back in action with ‘The Disappearance’

Longtime readers of our humble little book blog know of my love for the horror genre, especially author Bentley Little. Little’s ability to gross out his readers can’t be matched by any other author.

But for his past couple of books, Little has been turning more toward the mainstream. His latest, “The Disappearance,” continues in that direction.

UCLA students Gary, his girlfriend, Joan, and their friends Stacy, Reyn and Brian head to the Burning Man festival in the Black Rock Desert for some fiery fun. But when the friends groggily awake the morning after the Man’s set ablaze, they realize they’ve been drugged. Worse, Joan is missing. The group searches for her and tries to seek help but finds there’s little they can do but return to California.

Back on campus the students are shocked to find that almost all evidence of Joan’s existence has vanished — along with her roommate. The college kids get little assistance from the authorities. Gary, desperate to find his girlfriend, takes matters into his own hands.

Reyn gave a humorless chuckle. “You know how, in movies, characters can’t go to the police when a crime occurs because some ludicrous plot twist makes it seem like they’re guilty? And so the characters try to solve the crime and end up getting in even deeper shit?”
“That’s us.”
“That’s us,” Reyn agreed.

And they will indeed find themselves in deep doo-doo. Little by little the mystery unfolds, and eventually the friends will be facing a powerful evil. Powerful but human, which separates “The Disappearance” from Little’s earlier work.

While the novel is full of suspense, there’s not much, if anything, supernatural at the heart of the plot. But like his other more recent books, the biggest proof Little is on a new road is the lack of gore. Grisly scenes and perverse violence have always bloodied Little’s pages. With “The Disappearance,” Little seems to leave all that behind — for the most part.

Lovers of horror will still find much to enjoy in “The Disappearance.” But Little’s fans may find themselves longing for a decapitated head, bulging eyes and a swollen tongue protruding from the skull, to remind them of the author they’ve come to know and revere.

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