Thursday, April 5, 2018

The Vanishing Season ~ Joanna Schaffhausen (earc) review [@slipperywhisper @MinotaurBooks]

The Vanishing Season
December 05, 2017
274 pages
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Ellery Hathaway knows a thing or two about serial killers, but not through her police training. She's an officer in sleepy Woodbury, MA, where a bicycle theft still makes the newspapers. No one there knows she was once victim number seventeen in the grisly story of serial killer Francis Michael Coben. The only victim who lived.

When three people disappear from her town in three years, all around her birthday—the day she was kidnapped so long ago—Ellery fears someone knows her secret. Someone very dangerous. Her superiors dismiss her concerns, but Ellery knows the vanishing season is coming and anyone could be next. She contacts the one man she knows will believe her: the FBI agent who saved her from a killer’s closet all those years ago.

Agent Reed Markham made his name and fame on the back of the Coben case, but his fortunes have since turned. His marriage is in shambles, his bosses think he's washed up, and worst of all, he blew a major investigation. When Ellery calls him, he can’t help but wonder: sure, he rescued her, but was she ever truly saved? His greatest triumph is Ellery’s waking nightmare, and now both of them are about to be sucked into the past, back to the case that made them...with a killer who can't let go.

Ellery Hathaway is not that kidnapped girl, rescued years ago and now going on tours to tell the world her story. In fact, she is not telling anyone her story. She has started a new life for herself, separate from that girl kidnapped by a now infamous man. Woodbury is tiny and supposed to be worlds away from the kind of crime that touched Ellery's life.

Maybe that's why no one believes her theory about the disappearances - that they're related. She can't share with her fellow police officers all of why she thinks there's a connection; that would mean revealing her past. So she calls in one of the only people to know what happened to her (and to know that it was her, at least the former her, not just some nameless, faceless girl): FBI Agent Reed Markham.

Author Joanna Schaffhausen set up some really interesting and compelling relationships and dynamics in this novel, her debut. Ellery had her past, the ways she was keeping herself a secret, her worry that someone had (or would) discover who she had been, and there was what all of those precautions and anxieties meant for the kind of life she was living. Then Agent Markham had a few secrets of his own and the different ways that Ellery's case - and some subsequent ones - affected his life.

When you throw in the chief of police, Sam and all of his different relationships, Ellery's mother, Reeds family, the other police officers, some of the Woodbury residents, Ellery's almost friends, it all makes for a very comelling and well done mystery. You care about the characters, but also can't help second guessing their motives or intentions. This person might be capable of something horrible . . . or maybe they're just upset, like anyone would be . . . maybe nothing happened to those missing people . . . maybe something did.

I really enjoyed Ellery's character (somehow she gave me some of the same feeling as Lena Adams from Karin Slaughter's Grant County series, though they're also quite different), how she wasn't what you expected but also how strong and determined she was. She was damaged, but resilient, too. I look forward to reading Schaffhausen's second novel No Mercy whether it involves Ellery or not (though I very much want more with her character).

digital review copy received thanks to the publisher, via NetGalley

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