Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Vanishing Point - Val McDermid

My review of The Vanishing Point appeared in Shelf Awareness for Readers. I am reprinting it here with their permission.

First line:  "Stephanie Harker was just about old enough to remember when air travel had been exciting."

Val McDermid gives her series characters Tony Hill and Carol Jordan a hiatus as she redefines “ghost story” in The Vanishing Point, a standalone thriller.

The terror kicks off with every parent’s worst nightmare, a kidnapping, in Chicago’s O’Hare airport. Stephanie Harker has only been a parent for nine months. The ghostwriter for Scarlett Higgins, a British reality TV celeb, she reluctantly falls into the role of parent when Scarlett, dying of cancer, names her Jimmy’s guardian.

Alternating between the present investigation and flashback, where Stephanie relates the history of her relationship with Scarlett, the bizarre world of the pseudo-celebrity takes shape. But McDermid composes an enchanting character in Scarlett. She is in no way high society; she IS smart, ambitious and dedicated, conflicting with the image many readers attach to reality TV stars.

In traditional McDermid style, the plot of The Vanishing Point is riveting. Well-placed red herrings and twists keep the energy level high throughout 400 plus pages. Multiple layers engage readers in ideas and issues beyond pursuit of the villain: what defines a parent, a false sense of safety, bullies, and cultural differences between British and Americans. McDermid’s skill at developing these ideas as part of the mechanism that drives the plot is what makes her work exceptional.

The Vanishing Point’s tone is not as dark as many of McDermid’s recent novels, but the intensity, the depth and the caliber of the content is as good if not better than anything she’s written to date. This is a great introduction to Val McDermid for new readers and a criminal treat for established fans.

The Vanishing Point is available in hardcover from Atlantic Monthly Press (ISBN:  978-0802120526).

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