Bookshelf: Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips

Friday, January 24, 2020
This book is unlike any crime fiction you've ever read. The event that kicks of our year in the Russian peninsula of Kamchatka is the kidnapping of two girls, 11- and 8-year old sisters Alyona and Sophia. Each chapter is from the perspective of a different female character living on the peninsula, set in each successive month from August to June.

There isn't any depiction of the actual police investigation. There are a couple characters who were tangentially involved with the investigation are featured in several chapters. One woman is a witness to the kidnapping, another is an administrator at the local school who loves her weekly meetings with one of the lead cops on the case, and another is the wife of a police officer who worked the case.

It's interesting to see how the kidnapping affects the peninsula, and in the difference in the reaction to the disappearance of an indigenous eighteen year old a few years before the events of the book. And none of those tensions are stated obviously. There is direct discussion in the difference in treatment of white Russian people and the indigenous populations, but there it's not hamfisted. Every conversation about it is relevant to the characters having those thoughts or discussions, and weaves an important tapestry of the region as time goes on.

I think this is the first time I've read anything that could be considered crime fiction. It's just a genre that I've mainly delved into in movies and television, but never with my reading choices. Normally when I think of crime fiction, I think of a detective unraveling the details of the cast, dealing with twists and turns, and who's lying and who's telling the truth. But I think by not starting with the stereotypical crime fiction, I don't have a set view of what crime fiction should be.

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