The Disappearing Act by Catherine Steadman
|The Disappearing Act by Catherine Steadman|
|Reviewer: Zoe Morris|
|Summary: A twisty-turny thriller, this shows a darker side of Hollywood through the eyes of a British actress in town for an unforgettable few weeks.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 384||Date: June 2021|
|Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK|
British actress Mia Eliot is on the cusp of success. Great success. If the rumours are true, award season is going to treat her well, acknowledging her for her latest, critically acclaimed production. She's going places but so, unfortunately, is her partner. And the places he's going take him towards lies, deceit and a pretty young thing in the form of his new co-star. It's a good time for Mia to escape, and pilot season in LA provides just the excuse.
Arriving in LA, Mia is swept away by the peculiarity of it all. Everyone is so busy, everything is so big and bright and loud, she's surrounded by bodies but has never felt so alone. It's unsurprising, then, that she takes the opportunity to chat to fellow actors she meets at castings. After all, they might be her competition, but they're all in the same boat. At one casting, when discovering someone's parking meter is about to run out, she does the British thing and offers to run down and sort it. It's an innocent enough offer, but one she soon regrets because when she returns to the office where the casting is, she finds the fellow auditionee has gone, and she's left there with her car keys and wallet, with no way of returning them. At first it's a bit of a pain, but it soon migrates to a puzzle and then a problem. Where has this girl, Emily, gone? She was Just There a moment ago.
The disappearing act Emily has pulled becomes the plot for the rest of the story. Mia can't let it go, and her mind flits through endless possibilities: is Emily a flake, or has something bad happened to her? Does she need to involve the agency? Her agent? The police? Then…phew…Emily gets in touch. She's ok! So sorry about the inconvenience etc etc, can she come and get her stuff? It's a weight off Mia's mind but only momentarily because when the girl calling herself Emily shows up, she looks like Emily and sounds like Emily but Mia is 99% sure it's not Emily. Which makes zero sense.
The story that follows is an epic game of cat and mouse, where nothing, and no one, is as they seem. While trying to juggle castings and call backs, Mia is dragged deeper into a mystery that pre-dates her arrival in Hollywood but involves some of its most influential key players. Players who, if they find out Mia is sticking her nose in where it's not needed, might use their power to ruin her chances at hitting the big time. At what point is it time to wash her hands of this whole mess, and accept there's something bigger going on, something she has no business getting involved in?
This book had so many twists, but it's well paced so you can keep up, even if you struggle to get even one step ahead. We're living the story through Mia's eyes and mind and she's doing a really good job of piecing together the weirdness, much better than I would have done. Because yes, this is a weird one. But it's also entertaining and the authenticity jumps off the page. The author is an actress as well as a novelist, and that shines through. I loved the descriptions of LA and all the contradictions – like Mia's reliance on fast food despite a need to maintain movie star looks, or the way she gets involved in this all in the first place, when she could easily have backed off, thinking such a thing beneath her.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending us this copy to review. It was a little different, and a lot good. We can also recommend the author's previous title, Mr Nobody by Catherine Steadman while if more Hollywood insight is what you're after, why not look at Hollywood Frame by Frame: Behind the Scenes: Cinema's Unseen Contact Sheets by Karina Longworth.
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