All Things Cease to Appear
Goodreads ratings
3.71 / 5

"All Things Cease to Appear" Summary

By Elizabeth Brundage

fiction | 400 pages | Published in 2016

A dark, riveting, beautifully written book—by “a brilliant novelist” according to Richard Bausch—that combines noir and the gothic in a story about two families entwined in their own unhappiness, with, at its heart, a gruesome and unsolved murder.Late one winter afternoon in upstate New York, George Clare comes home to find his wife killed and their three-year-old daughter alone—for how many hours?—in her room across the hall. He had recently, begrudgingly, taken a position at a nearby private college (far too expensive for local kids to attend) teaching art history, and moved his family into a tight-knit, impoverished town that has lately been discovered by wealthy outsiders in search of a rural idyll.George is of course the immediate suspect—the question of his guilt echoing in a story shot through with secrets both personal and professional. While his parents rescue him from suspicion, a persistent cop is stymied at every turn in proving Clare a heartless murderer. And three teenage brothers (orphaned by tragic circumstances) find themselves entangled in this mystery, not least because the Clares had moved into their childhood home, a once-thriving dairy farm. The pall of death is ongoing, and relentless; behind one crime there are others, and more than twenty years will pass before a hard kind of justice is finally served. A rich and complex portrait of a psychopath and a marriage, this is also an astute study of the various taints that can scar very different families, and even an entire community. Elizabeth Brundage is an essential talent who has given us a true modern classic.


Estimated read time: 5 min read

One Sentence Summary

A chilling and atmospheric thriller about a small town murder and the secrets that unravel in its wake.


"All Things Cease to Appear" is a gripping psychological thriller written by Elizabeth Brundage. The novel delves into the dark corners of human nature, exploring themes of betrayal, secrets, and the haunting power of the past. Brundage weaves together multiple narratives, creating a suspenseful and thought-provoking story that will keep readers on the edge of their seats.

Brief Synopsis

The story is set in the small town of Chosen, New York, in the early 1980s. George Clare, an art historian, and his wife Catherine move into a farmhouse with their young daughter. The house has a tragic history, as the previous owners, the Hale family, met a gruesome end. As the Clares settle into their new home, strange and unsettling events begin to unfold.

Plot Overview and Setting

The novel opens with the murder of Catherine Clare in her farmhouse. The narrative then jumps back in time, revealing the events leading up to her death. The story is presented from multiple perspectives, allowing readers to piece together the truth.

The setting of the book is crucial to the atmosphere and plot. The isolated farmhouse, surrounded by fields and woods, becomes a character in itself. Its eerie presence adds to the sense of unease and foreboding that permeates the story.

Main Characters

George ClareAn art historian who moves to Chosen with his wife Catherine. He becomes a suspect in her murder.
Catherine ClareGeorge's wife, a talented artist. She struggles with her marriage and the isolation of living in Chosen.
Ella HaleThe daughter of the previous owners of the farmhouse. She becomes a central figure in the story.
Cole HaleElla's brother, who is haunted by the tragic events that took place in the farmhouse.
Eddy DiehlA local handyman who forms a connection with Catherine. He becomes entangled in the events surrounding her murder.

Summary of Different Story Points over Chapters

Chapter 1-5: The Clares' Move

George Clare, Catherine, and their daughter Franny move to the farmhouse in Chosen. They encounter strange occurrences and learn about the dark history of the house.

Chapter 6-10: Catherine's Isolation

Catherine struggles with the isolation of living in Chosen. She becomes increasingly unhappy in her marriage to George and seeks solace in her art.

Chapter 11-15: George's Secrets

George's true nature is revealed as his past is uncovered. He becomes a suspect in Catherine's murder.

Chapter 16-20: Ella's Story

The narrative shifts to Ella Hale, who shares her experiences growing up in the farmhouse and the events leading up to her family's tragic end.

Chapter 21-25: Unraveling the Truth

The truth behind Catherine's murder is slowly revealed, with unexpected twists and turns. The past and present intersect, exposing long-buried secrets.

Main Events

  1. The murder of Catherine Clare in the farmhouse.
  2. Catherine's growing discontent and isolation.
  3. George's dark secrets and his possible involvement in the murder.
  4. Ella's recollections of her family's experiences in the farmhouse.
  5. The unraveling of the truth behind Catherine's murder.

Themes and Insights

Betrayal and Deception

The novel explores the destructive power of betrayal and deception within relationships. George's secrets and Catherine's growing dissatisfaction highlight how lies can erode trust and lead to tragic consequences.

The Haunting Power of the Past

The past haunts the present in "All Things Cease to Appear." The lingering presence of the Hale family's tragedy affects the lives of the Clares and those around them. The novel explores how the past can shape and influence the present.

Isolation and Alienation

The setting of the isolated farmhouse mirrors the characters' emotional isolation and alienation. Catherine's loneliness and George's detachment contribute to the sense of unease and tension in the story.

Reader's Takeaway

"All Things Cease to Appear" is a haunting and atmospheric thriller that delves into the darkest corners of human nature. Elizabeth Brundage's masterful storytelling keeps readers guessing until the very end. The exploration of themes such as betrayal, the power of the past, and isolation make this novel a thought-provoking and compelling read.


Elizabeth Brundage's "All Things Cease to Appear" is a captivating psychological thriller that will leave readers on the edge of their seats. With its complex characters, atmospheric setting, and exploration of universal themes, the novel offers a thought-provoking and chilling reading experience. Brundage's skillful writing and intricate plot make this book a must-read for fans of suspenseful and atmospheric storytelling.

All Things Cease to Appear FAQ

  1. What is 'All Things Cease to Appear' about?

    ‘All Things Cease to Appear’ is a psychological thriller novel that follows the story of a young woman named Catherine Clare who moves with her husband to a small town in upstate New York. However, their idyllic life takes a dark turn when Catherine is found dead in their old farmhouse, and suspicion falls on her husband George.

  2. Who is the author of 'All Things Cease to Appear'?

    The author of 'All Things Cease to Appear' is Elizabeth Brundage.

  3. Is 'All Things Cease to Appear' based on a true story?

    No, 'All Things Cease to Appear' is a work of fiction and not based on a true story.

  4. What genre does 'All Things Cease to Appear' belong to?

    'All Things Cease to Appear' is a psychological thriller novel.

  5. Are there any trigger warnings for 'All Things Cease to Appear'?

    Yes, 'All Things Cease to Appear' contains themes of violence, abuse, and murder. Reader discretion is advised.

  6. Is 'All Things Cease to Appear' part of a series?

    No, 'All Things Cease to Appear' is a standalone novel.

  7. What is the setting of 'All Things Cease to Appear'?

    'All Things Cease to Appear' is set in a small town in upstate New York.

  8. Is 'All Things Cease to Appear' told in multiple perspectives?

    Yes, 'All Things Cease to Appear' is told from multiple perspectives, providing different insights into the story.

  9. Does 'All Things Cease to Appear' have a film adaptation?

    Yes, 'All Things Cease to Appear' was adapted into a film titled 'Things Heard & Seen' released in 2021.

  10. Is 'All Things Cease to Appear' a fast-paced thriller?

    While 'All Things Cease to Appear' is a gripping psychological thriller, it also delves into intricate character development and explores deeper themes, so the pacing may vary throughout the story.