4 Fabulous Novels With Vanishing Acts

The Last Taxi RidePeople who drop off the radar. People who don’t come home for dinner, who leave their car at the shopping mall, who vanish like Houdini without a trace. These are the scenarios that chill and terrify us—and if you’re counting the days until the film adaptation of Gone Girl opens this October, here are four more books with mysteriously vanishing characters that will keep you turning pages till then:

The Last Taxi Ride, by A. X. Ahmad
Sometimes half the fun of a murder mystery is roaming around a strange city, knocking on doors and knocking back whiskey with the detective. Ranjit Singh, a Sikh taxi driver in New York, makes a great detective because he’s good company: a smart, sympathetic outsider who shows us a New York we rarely hear about.

Ranjit was the last person to see Bollywood actress Shabana Shah alive. Not only did he drive her home in his cab, he left fingerprints all over her apartment when he snuck in with the doorman to take a star-struck look around. Now Shabana has been found beaten to death and the doorman has disappeared. NYPD considers Ranjit an accessory to murder; Ranjit’s boss is up to his neck in shady business dealings. It’ll take one wild ride through the city, and a journey into Shabana’s past, for Ranjit to save himself.

The Good Girl, by Mary Kubica
Puzzle lovers, this one’s for you. Mia is definitely a good girl, an inspired teacher who buys the students art supplies with her own money and never misses class. One night she meets a charming stranger in a bar and impulsively goes home with him. “Uh oh,” I hear you thinking, “knife-wielding psychopath, right?” Wrong. Colin, the charmer who kidnaps Mia, is not quite what he seems, and neither is anyone else in this thriller.

Colditz: The Full Story, by P. R. Reid
For WWII nonfiction, it just doesn’t get any better. I’ve given copies of this book to several friends, and the story stays fresh and exciting every time I reread it. Patrick Reid was a British POW with several escape attempts to his name by the time the Germans sent him to Colditz, a thousand-year-old castle. Colditz was considered inescapable, with so many guards they outnumbered the prisoners and “the castle floodlit at night from every angle despite the blackout, and notwithstanding the sheer drop of a hundred feet or so from its windows.”

Needless to say, Reid is soon named Escape Officer for the camp, overseeing dozens of attempts. The sheer ingenuity of the prisoners is mind-boggling. One group digs a tunnel a third of a mile long beneath the castle walls only to surface, after months’ worth of labor, in the toolshed of an old woman’s house: they had miscalculated a turn. But with every disappointment the men simply grow more determined to make, as they call it, “a home run.” Their gallantry and camaraderie show why they were known as the Greatest Generation.

Songs for the Missing, by Stewart O’Nan
Kim Larson has every reason to be pleased with life. Bound for college in the fall, she is so eager to leave her small town behind that some nights she stands on an overpass, smoking menthols and watching the traffic go by: “Trucks lit like spaceships shuddered under her feet, dragging their own hot wind, their trailers full of unknown cargo.” Then Kim vanishes. Did she run away? Her friends at the swimming hole where she spent her last afternoon noticed something odd in her manner, as if she were saying goodbye. Was she hit by a car, was she abducted? Songs for the Missing is unusual in that it focuses on Kim’s circle, the people left behind to put up posters and have nightmares when she goes missing. For readers, it’s almost impossible not to think, “What if that were me?”

What is your favorite book featuring a character who pulls a disappearing act?

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