by Val McDermid
The short review for International Best-selling author Val McDermid’s latest book, Vanishing Point (Atlantic Monthly Press 2012), is: Buy It. From the first line (Stephanie Harker was just about old enough to remember when air travel had been exciting–don’t you love that memory?), from the first scene with Harker’s wrenching love for her son Jimmy, that wash of excitement mixed with trepidation that surrounds their trip to the US and her presciently uneasy feeling that if they can just get to the beach, everything will be OK.
And then the roof falls in. Jimmy is kidnapped. Stephanie is tasered and arrested. The critical first hours of a kidnapping drizzle away in misdirection and the combined efforts of the FBI, the police, and Jimmy’s harried mom fail to unravel the Gordion Knot of who-dunnit. The gut-wrenching hope melts into anguish as the FBI’s best lead becomes a fiasco and Stephanie must return to England alone and start the search over.
What reader can’t relate to a mother’s empty feelings, her life half gone. Luckily, Stephanie has a partner in her police boyfriend who has a knack for solving mysteries. And here, half way into the book, when the reader thought they’d seen the major action–here is where the action starts.
There are a few extras to this story you’ll like. Stephanie is a ghost writer and spends considerable time sharing that experience with us. I was fascinated. Who knew those unsung heroes were in such demand? She shares so many credible details, I feel like I should hang out my shingle because I know what to do. Another extra is the cockney verbiage that surrounds the secondary main character, Scarlet. Despite her rough language and unpolished exterior, I couldn’t help but like the wench, even though I knew she cut her career teeth by lying to people. Try as I might, I found myself trusting her.
McDermid’s approach to the first half of the story is a long-winded flashback. She mixes present time as the FBI tries to track down Jimmy with past tense which is the story of how Jimmy came to live with Stephanie (she’s not his mother or his relative). Invariably, they run out of leads and return to Stephanie for more information. That backstory becomes a plotline of its own, covering about seven years. It’s a lot of narrative. Yes, there is dialogue, but much more narrative than is usually found in an action/thriller. I didn’t think I’d like that (the flashback or the extended narrative), but I got used to it, thanks in large part to McDermid’s facility with weaving the stories together.
I won’t spoil the ending, but I’ll warn you: When you think you’ve figured out how it’ll wrap up, you haven’t.
I liked this book so much that as I turned the last page, I jumped on Amazon and bought McDermid’s next book.
Jacqui Murray is the editor of a K-6 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, creator of two technology training books for middle school and six ebooks on technology in education. She is the author of Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, Cisco guest blog, Technology in Education featured blogger, IMS tech expert, and a bi-weekly contributor to Write Anything. Currently, she’s editing a thriller that should be out to publishers next summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.