Friday, January 5, 2018

The vanishing season by Joanna Schaffhausen

Fourteen years ago Abigail Hathaway was abducted by serial killer Francis Michael Coben, and thanks to young FBI agent Reed Markham Abigail survived and became the victim who lived.  Thanks to careful management of the press case Abigail was able to transition to become Ellery Hathaway, small town police officer in Woodbury, Massachusetts.  No one knows who she once was, and because she is a survivor Ellery takes pride in being independent and living her own life - though surviving Coben has left it's scars, physical and mental. 

Life in a small town is soothing and familiar, a place where Ellery can just be Ellie, the only female cop in a small police force.  Someone knows who she really is though, someone who has sent her a birthday card each year for the past three years, each card coming around the same time as a missing persons case that no one seems to think needs solving.  Dreading the arrival of yet another birthday card, Ellie reaches out to Agent Markham for help, not realising that he is battling demons of his own.  Can Ellie and Reed solve the case that no one thinks needs solving - especially when the local Chief wants nothing to do with Ellie's obsession and Reed's sudden appearance?  Chasing cold cases is never easy, and knowing the clock is ticking for another victim pushes Ellie and Reed to take desperate steps in the hopes they won't be too late and have to wait another year for the killer.

I stumbled across The vanishing season in the new books section of my library website, and while I wasn't too sure about reading it for the first few pages I was soon hooked on the story.  The start is very dramatic and it takes a moment or two to realise what we are witnessing, but it lays the ground work beautifully for the rest of the story.  Ellie is a scarred and damaged person, exactly what you would expect from someone who lived through what she did - and the ways she interacts with people feels very genuine.  In his own turn, Reed is also what you would expect from a seasoned FBI agent, especially one who deals with the cases that he does.  Ellie and Reed somehow manage to represent victims and law enforcement everywhere, without drifting too far into the cliché.  Small town America, and pretty much small town anywhere, is also reflected in the way the towns people interact and interrelate.  

While The vanishing season is not the most polished of books, it benefits from that rather than suffers.  The length was pretty much perfect, and the pace was bang on, keeping you reading and hooked without making you feel like you were being dragged down by superfluous side stories and characters.  There are some delightful little twists and hints dropped that keep you hooked in the story until the big reveal at the end - and if you are someone who likes to play along and try and figure it out before the big reveal (I certainly do), then it was a nice challenge to try and figure it out before the end.  This was an amazing debut novel, and hopefully we see more from Schaffhausen, maybe not set in Woodbury (although it feels like there could be more here) but she has great potential and it would be interesting to explore other characters and stories with her,

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

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