Sunday, December 10, 2017

The Vanishing Season

The Vanishing Season by Joanna Schaffhausen
St. Martin's Press: 12/5/17
eBook review copy. 288 pages
ISBN-13: 9781250126047

The Vanishing Season by Joanna Schaffhausen is a highly recommended debut mystery/police procedural.

Ellery Hathaway knows a thing or two about serial killers.  On her 14th birthday, Ellery, whose first name is actually Abigail, became the 17th young woman abducted by the notorious serial killer Frances Coben. Abigail was the only survivor and under an intense media spotlight. She decided to go by her middle name, Ellery, to avoid anyone recognizing her name, she hides her scars, and she no longer celebrates her birthday.

Now, fourteen years later, Ellery is police officer in a small town, Woodbury, MA, and she's concerned that there is a serial killer in her small town. Three people have disappeared in July over the past three years. Ellery sees a pattern and would like the disappearances to be further investigated, but her chief thinks otherwise. No one in the community actually knows Ellery's past history, so her concerns are easily dismissed.

As the date approaches for the vanishing season when another citizen will disappear, Ellery calls the one man she knows who may be able to help her solve the question of who is taking these people, FBI Agent Reed Markham. Markham solved the case of her abduction and rescued her from Coben just in time. He may have insight into the three missing persons cases. He may also be able to help Ellery solve another question, one closer to home, because it appears that someone knows her true identity and they have been sending her a birthday card since she moved to Woodbury.

The Vanishing Season is a well written mystery/procedural. Schffhausen builds up the suspense and suspense while slowly revealing new clues and suspects. The plot is complex and there are a full cast of characters. Ellery's dog, Speed Bump, or Bump for short, is a great scene stealing. Ellery's back story is told in chilling detail and it is clear how wounded she still is from her experiences, as well as why the current cases of missing persons concerns her.

The main characters are all well developed, although readers will question the wisdom of some of their decisions. Ellery doesn't share any of her history with her current colleagues and so they have little reason to take her concerns seriously, which, while you can see her reasoning, it also seems to be a mistake on her part. I will say that the perpetrator was easy to spot early on, making the ending feel a bit contrived, but the conclusion is satisfying. All in all this is a satisfying debut and an author to watch for in the future.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of St. Martin's Press.

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