Book Review: The Vanishing Season by Joanna Schaffhausen
I used to love creepy books about serial murderers but as I’ve aged and had children, I’ve found they scare me too much to make them regular fare. However, Joanna Schaffhausen is a good friend of a good friend of mine meaning I feel like I know her (even though the limit of our friendship is the occasional comment/reply on one of our mutual friend’s Facebook posts, LOL) and, therefore, I felt obliged to pick up a copy of her debut novel.
For someone who doesn’t read this genre often, The Vanishing Season definitely had its creepy moments. Our heroine, Ellery, was fourteen when she was kidnapped by a serial killer. Now, fourteen years later, she’s working as a police officer in a small town where three people have gone missing in as many years, all around her birthday. Coincidence? She thinks not.
Ellery asks the FBI agent who rescued her all those years ago, Reed, to help her connect the dots and assist her in proving to her superiors that the missing persons have met with foul play.
I enjoyed the police procedural moments of the book. Ellery and Reed going through the evidence, interviewing potential witnesses etc, was a well paced and enjoyable read. Ellery and Reed went from step to step logically and there was never any noticeable curve balls thrown into the plot that made me roll my eyes.
The use of modern investigation techniques (DNA testing etc) also felt just right. As was the number of red herrings to put you off the scent of the actual guilty party.
There’s nothing I hate more than info dumps regarding the backgrounds of characters and Schaffhausen avoided this trap and instead presented the details of Ellery and Reed’s past seamlessly. Funnily enough, Ellery’s ordeal at the hands of the serial killer didn’t particularly freak me out. What did upset me greatly was Ellery’s life when she returned from the clutches of the serial killer. I’ll just say I wouldn’t nominate Ellery’s mother for any Mother of the Year contests.
In fact, Ellery’s return from being kidnapped did give me flashbacks to The Way Back by Kylie Ladd which I read very recently. That book also had a 14 year old victim struggling to cope after she returned to her family. In this case, Schaffhausen does give Ellery’s PTSD a more dramatic edge but this is in keeping with the style needed for a serial killer based thriller.
I must mention Ellery and Reed’s relationship also. Their history created a bond between them which Schaffhausen portrays perfectly. I think the balance of romantic love versus platonic love was exactly right for this installment.
There’s no huge Gone Girl twist in the end of the book but there is enough tension in the climactic scenes to make you keep turning pages until you reach the end.
The book gets a friend of a friend’s 5 out of 5 rating. I would have still highly recommended it even without this connection, however. My only whine would be that the book didn’t seem very long. This obviously means I’m looking forward to the next book.