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The Disappearance of Irene Dos Santos

by Margaret Mascarenhas


The Disappearance of Irene Dos Santos is a strange, wonderful mystery that takes you through not only the lives of several interesting characters but into the native mythology of Venezuela.

Lily Martinez was a teenager when her best friend, Irene Dos Santos, disappeared into the rain forest on a camping trip with Lily and her family. She tried to go on with her life, but the day she finds an old letter from Irene she slips and falls, risking not only her life but the life of her soon to be born baby. As family and friends gather around to enact a ritual to bring the baby safely into the world, their stories begin to piece together the mystery of what happened to Irene Dos Santos.

The book is composed of the memories and opinions of several different characters. While some are part of Lily’s extended family others are rogue narrators, appearing to provide their own clue in the search for Irene’s fate. Each chapter gives another character a chance to tell his/her tale and, as they recount their memories, little hints about Irene are revealed.

The story is very well-written and every character so expertly portrayed that one writer takes on the unique voice of several characters. It is a naughty thrill to peek into the very private lives of each storyteller, not only learning the stories themselves, but also the background issues that only exist in the characters' minds. As we read, we learn just how much the life and disappearance of Irene has affected this extended family.

At first, readers may think they have figured out the whole mystery, only to be thrown off track. The story captures the reader and doesn’t let him/her go until the last clue is revealed. It is thrilling, complicated, and not to be missed.

The Book

Grand Central Publishing / Hachette
June 19, 2009
Mystery / Literary fiction
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The Reviewer

Emily Decobert
Reviewed 2010
NOTE: Reviewer Emily Decobert is the author of Continuing on Alone.
© 2010