I first read about The Cold Vanish by Jon Billman HERE on Lark's blog. I always pay special attention to the books Lark reads because I know how similar our tastes seem to be and I was very glad I did this time.
So this is a book which I believe is fairly popular in the USA at the moment and which, needless to say, I had never heard of. (Quick pause for a shout out to my American blogging friends who frequently introduce me to books I would otherwise never come across. Thank you!) But the moment I read Lark's review I knew it was a book I would find fascinating.
The book centres around the disappearance of Jacob Gray, a cyclist, young, very fit, who disappeared off the face of the Earth in April, 2017. He'd started a long-distance cycling trip across America to Vermont in the Olympic National Park in Washington State but his bike was found by the side of the Sol Duc river, in said park, no sign of Jacob anywhere. The river was the first suspicion, that he'd gone for water, fallen in and drowned. Jacob was an excellent swimmer and experienced surfer but they searched the river anyway. No sign. The subsequent official search was not as stringent as it should've been, experts not called in, one set of officials not talking to another and so on. Jacob's father, Randy, ended up taking on the job of searching for his son and the author of this book, Jon Billman, joined him to help.
"People don't take trips, trips take people." -- Amelia Earhart
What follows is an extraordinary account, not only of their search, which takes them all over the west coast and further, but of scores of other people who have also gone missing without trace. It turns out no one is keeping a database of the number people who go missing in the wild. Cities yes, but not wild places. And their number is legion. It seems cyclists don't go missing very often, possibly because they keep more to the trails. Runners, walkers, older people, small children are most likely to disappear and many of them are never found.
And this of course sparks all kinds of supernatural, X-Files type theories. Abducted by aliens, taken by Bigfoot, cults, Hell's Angels, sex traffickers, crossed via a portal to another dimension, you name it. I was fascinated by the Bigfoot people who have a huge presence in the area and whose story features quite a lot because they're welcoming and helpful to Randy and Jon. Lots of people apparently disappear on the 37th parallel, known as the USA's UFO hotspot. Mount Shasta is apparently well known for strange, mystical experiences and disappearances. Of course, having been a big X-Files fan I lapped all this up, with a pinch of salt of course, but it really is absolutely rivetting.
As were the many stories included in the book of others who have gone missing. Some are found, or just simply turn up - often at almost the exact spot they were last seen, some are found perished in forests, on mountains, in rivers, years later, but many more are, tragically, never found at all.
This was a compelling, 'can't put it down' book for me. The desperate search for Jacob by his father is heart-breaking, you want to weep for him. But it is also an absolutely fascinating and sobering read about the dangers of wandering off the path in America's National Parks, they are 'massive' and if you get caught out your chances are not high, even for experts in survival techniques. This one will definitely feature in my favourite non-fiction books at the end of the year, no contest.