The Vanishing Season by Joanna Schaffhausen
Published by Minotaur Books on December 5, 2017 (expected)
Genre(s): fiction, crime, mystery, suspense, thriller
Format & Length: e-book, 288
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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.
The Vanishing Season is not only Joanna Schaffhausen’s debut novel, it is also the 2016 winner of the Mystery Writers of America/St. Martin’s Minotaur First Crime Novel Award. And with good reason.
From the very short prologue, this novel captured my attention and wouldn’t let me put it down. I had picked this from my list of advance copies to read on my kindle app at the same time as my current paperback. (This allows me to always have a book on hand even if I don’t have the space or hands for a physical copy.) But after reading the prologue, I found myself picking this book up over my other current read several times, finally caving and reading the entire second half in one sitting.
This certainly didn’t read like a debut novel. It was so well written, engaging all of my senses and absorbing me thoroughly in the story. The characters were all interesting and complex (which I suppose stems from Schaffhausen’s background in psychology), with emotion that poured off the page and making for intriguing relationship dynamics. I can’t not mention Bump, the main character’s adorable basset hound, who helped bring some light humor to the dark themes and was my favorite character of the bunch! I also had two completely different guesses as to who the killer was, and while one of them wound up being correct, I kept flipping back and forth between the two right up until the very end.
Overall, The Vanishing Season was an extremely solid serial killer crime/mystery thriller. I, for one, can’t wait to see what Schaffhausen does next! Definitely recommended.
*Thanks to the publisher for providing an arc of this edition via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.