Western North Carolina is known for its waterfalls, mountain views, and inns strategically located to capture tourism. Megan Miranda has set her clever new crime novel, The Last to Vanish, in one such inn and in the adjacent town of Cutter’s Pass. The Passage, as the inn is called because it is a starting point for the Appalachian Trail, attracts not only adventurers but also professionals and amateurs. In the last quarter century, six visitors – a quartet of friends known as The Fraternity Four and two singletons – have disappeared. The youngest graduate, giving the book its title, was an investigative journalist. The novel begins with a guest checking in, who provides an alias but is soon identified by hotel manager Abby Lovett as the journalist’s brother, ready to detect something. Abby tells the story in an unorthodox way, treating the disappearances in reverse chronological order. The structure works well because Cutter’s Pass is full of secrets – “This town [is] a vault,” muses Abby – which Miranda skillfully brings to light. The Last to Vanish is a fine example of how important timing can be in a thriller. (Marysue Rucci Books/Scribner, July 26)