The Vanishing Season: an introduction to a captivating new character and series

The Vanishing book review

What is this about?: Ellery Hathway is a survivor — she survived being kidnapped and violated years ago as a teenager by a serial killer, and is now a cop in a small town as far away as possible from her past life. But her past has come knocking, and three people have been kidnapped from her small hometown. But no one wants to believe they’re connected.

What else is this about?: This first book launches the Ellery Hathaway series very skilfully, weaving her past into her present and Ellery’s current cases.

Blurb

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 introduces readers to Ellery, a cop in a small-town intent on keeping her past secret, when she begins to see a pattern to the kidnapping of three people over three years — they all seem random, with no real links to each other and yet they’ve all disappeared around the same time. And each kidnapping is followed by Ellery receiving birthday cards.

Thing is, Ellery doesn’t celebrate her birthday because when she was 14, she was kidnapped and violated — and she carries the scars from that still — literally. Her kidnapper tortured her as well. Ellery has worked hard to move past that event, and thought she found a place where she could start anew. No one in her new town knows her past, she’s changed her name.

However, very quickly it becomes clear that her secrets cannot remain secret for much longer as The Vanishing Season progresses.

When no one in her department believes her, she calls in Reed, the FBI agent who rescued her all those years ago.

Reed and Ellery

These two are an unexpected partnership that works better than I thought — to Reed, Ellery is still the 14 year old her rescued, not a woman and a cop to boot. When she calls, he finds he has to go for she has loomed large in his life — her case made his career, even though presently, a case of his has gone horribly wrong and he is on leave.

Very quickly, they fall into an easy back-and-forth in the investigation, even though when it comes to their personal lives they are still reluctant to share anything. It’s this mix of camaraderie and conflict that makes their relationship so interesting to read.

Reed is thoughtful, never doing anything without evidence per say, but Ellery relies on her instincts — which led her to seeing a connection with cases that no one else did.

How would I describe Ellery? She a woman who will sleep with her boss to get access to the files of the three kidnap victims. She’s ruthless in her own way, and knows deep down these are linked. Reed on the other hand isn’t quite able to come to terms with the death of a young boy in his last case — it’s as if all the good he has done isn’t enough.

Another aspect I enjoyed in this book was that the author delved into Reed’s past efficiently, building a picture of him that let readers understand him better. Ellery may be the focus of this series, but the author has mastered a delicate balancing act in this partnership, making Reed as interesting a character as Ellery.

Secrets all come out 

There’s a sense of foreboding through the book, for as hard as Ellery is trying to keep her past secret, there’s no doubt that it has to come out — and it does. She tries her best to navigate the fall out, but the media and the voracious interest in her case returns, increasing when they realise the links to her current kidnappings.

Ellery simply never wanted to be seen as a victim again, interestingly something that provide an unexpected similarity to Reed. But, when a new victim is taken, her past comes out for every one to know she finds herself in the middle of a storm that casts her in exactly that role. Reed’s superiors come knocking as well, and I figured that by then either Reed or Ellery would be kidnapped, and sure enough that came true… except the reveal of the killer was not entirely what I suspected.

It was actually kind of … creepier. Ellery realises the long game being played with her life, one she had no idea about.

The Vanishing Season was read that introduced me to a new characters and as it turns out, a partnership.

Ellery and Reed are compelling characters, with a partnership that is going to prove interesting to read about because they’re equals now. 

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