Book Review: The Disappearing Act by Catherine Steadman


The Disappearing Act
Catherine Steadman
Title: The Disappearing Act by Catherine Steadman

Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟(4 stars)

Publisher: Ballantine Books

Quite the page-turner. It reminded me of Lynch's Mullholland Drive and the tv show The Arrangement. Both for the "something's not quite right with this dreamy place" feels and also the feeling of falling down a seemingly bottomless pit of crazy.

It didn't take long for events to take an eerie turn upon Mia's arrival in LA for pilot season. I enjoyed reading about pilot season as a sole end user of entertainment and having only ever heard the term but clearly not having any idea of what is involved in that whirlwind. It was at times invigorating, dangerous and also absurd and it was easy to see how people could get pulled into the whirlpool of it all and in the case of this story, pulled under entirely. Rare was the moment I could see myself making the same decisions Mia chose to and sometimes I was a bit incredulous that she was 28, her naivete was somewhat unreal. But I still wanted her to figure things out and be safe. I was rooting for Mia to make it out on the other side (I was yelling at the book, "Girl, just get your passport & book a flight! Get out of there now! Don't call that woman back! Just leave it!").

As for other characters, I cared a lot about Emily and given the truth of what happens, I liked that Steadman made me feel so much for her and her fate. George, the oft-referenced ex-boyfriend didn't connect for me and I was a bit annoyed that he was talked about so much. I realized that the breakup was abrupt and difficult for Mia but George loomed far too large for a guy who isn't really present and also isn't described in such a way that he seems like a loss. Mia felt it but I didn't. Nick was fine and served his purpose well. For where the story ends, I'd have appreciated seeing a bit more about that journey but no complaints there. Marla, was quite a character and that's all I can say. The remainder were well done for their parts but I don't want to give away anything.

Finally, I very much enjoyed Steadman's descriptions of LA and its environs. As I read I imagined everything bathed in golden, peach and pink hues by day and the glow of the city by night with slashes of purple. The glass tower Mia stayed in was both sleek and creepy and not just because it was occupied by only twenty-odd residents (the remaining hundreds of units were held by off-shore people using them as investments & addresses) and built atop a fault line. Just a lot of well-done evocation of tone and feeling.

In words I'll keep in mind for crosswords and puzzles this book gave me "air-con-chilled". It showed up twice in this book and I looked it up but didn't find a definition or any other word use so I can only assume this is the cool feeling from air conditioning. It was used to describe the coolness of skin and diamonds.

Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for the Advanced Reader Copy.

Summary: Once a year, actors from across the globe descend on the smog and sunshine of Los Angeles for pilot season. Every cable network and studio looking to fill the rosters of their new shows enticing a fresh batch of young hopefuls, anxious, desperate and willing to do whatever it takes to make it. Careers will be made, dreams will be realized, stars will be born. And some will be snuffed out.
British star Mia Eliot has landed leading roles in costume dramas in her native country, but now it's time for Hollywood to take her to the next level. Mia flies across the Atlantic to join the hoard of talent scrambling for their big breaks. She's a fish out of water in the ruthlessly competitive and faceless world of back-to-back auditioning. Then one day she meets Emily, another actress from out of town and a kindred spirit. Emily is friendly and genuine and reassuringly doesn't seem to be taking any of it too seriously. She stands out in a conveyor-belt world of fellow auditionees. But a simple favor turns dark when Emily disappears and Mia realizes she was the last person to see her, and the woman who knocks on Mia's door the following day claiming to be her new friend isn't the woman Mia remembers at all.

All Mia has to go on is the memory of a girl she met only once . . . and the suffocating feeling that something terrible has happened. Worse still, the police don't believe her when she claims the real Emily has gone missing. So Mia is forced to risk the role of a lifetime to try to uncover the truth about Emily, a gamble that will force her to question her own sanity as the truth goes beyond anything she could ever have imagined.

Actress and author Catherine Steadman has written a gripping thriller set in a world close to home that asks the question: In a city where dreams really do come true, how far would you go to make the unreal real?

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