Speculative fiction author Blake Crouch has officially reached that point in his career. The point at which he is famous enough that his earlier books, published before he was as well known, can be rereleased as something fresh. That is not necessarily a bad thing. The same process is currently underway with Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s back catalogue in the wake of the success of Mexican Gothic. Crouch now has one TV series (Wayward Pines) in the can, one (based on 2016’s Dark Matter) coming to Apple TV this year and another (based on 2019’s Recursion) optioned by director Matt Reeves and Netflix). Which brings us to Abandon, republished in 2023 but which is in fact Crouch’s third novel (of 19), and his first stand alone, originally released in 2009.
Abandon works in two time frames but revolve around the same McGuffin – a missing hoard of Spanish gold. In the present day, journalist Abigail Foster is joining a small expedition to cross the mountains into the restricted former mining town of Abandon. Joining her are her extremely estranged father and a couple of psychic investigators, hoping to photograph the spirits of the town. Abandon is famous for being a town in which the whole population of over 100 people mysteriously disappeared on Christmas Day 1893. The second narrative thread of the novel is the story the people of Abandon in the days leading up to that disappearance. Both stories are full of greed, violence and more than a little madness.
There is so much about the set-up of Abandon that does not make sense that it is hard to know where to start. And that is before readers get some of the more outlandish twists, double-crosses and heroics, with a little bit of Indiana Jones/Robert Langton problem solving thrown in for good measure. But if readers manage to suspend their disbelief for long enough there is plenty of fun to be had, particularly in the way in which Crouch lays out his reveals through the two intertwining narratives. One of the disappointments of the book is that despite the speculative, supernatural element that Crouch sets up, he ends up delivering something much more prosaic. Like many American thrillers, it becomes a tale in which many of the problems are both caused and solved with guns and violence.
Abandon is an early Crouch novel. It shows an author who knows what elements he needs to tell an intriguing tale but who lets the story get away from him a little. It is worth reading to see where Crouch has come from but does not have the confidence or coherence of some of his more recent books. Which is all to say that, with these rereleases, it would be nice if the publishers did not make readers go to the copyright page to discover they are exploring a successful author’s back catalogue.