skeletons in the closet

Police Officer Ellery Hathaway has an instinct for investigation. She has what you could call an insider's perspective. When she was just a teenager, she was kidnapped by a serial killer and held in his closet while he tortured her. She thought she was dead, but an observant FBI agent figured out who her kidnapper was and rescued Ellie before she became the seventeenth victim of Francis Michael Coben. She was the only one of his victims who survived.

Now it's years later, and she's an officer in a sleepy Massachusetts town. Not much happens there. But there have been several disappearances that Ellie find disturbing. Two women and a man have all gone missing around the same time of year. And Ellie believes that they're related. But it's more than instinct that is telling her that. The year of the first disappearance, Ellie received a birthday card, unsigned, with only a message that let her know that there was someone out there who knew of her past. She had been meticulous about reinventing herself, but somehow, someone found out her secret. 

She takes her suspicions to her police chief (but not the cards or her secret past), but he refuses to investigate or even to believe that the disappearances are related. So Ellie calls in an old friend, FBI agent and hero Reed Markham. While Markham had been a household name after Ellie's rescue and the book he wrote about Coben, the investigation, and Ellie, now he's struggling. His marriage is falling apart, and his boss at the FBI suggests he take some time off. But when Ellie calls, he has to help her, and he finds himself once again sucked into a case of a potential serial killer. 

The investigation takes them both back to the original case, to all the places that Ellie has been running from and that almost destroyed Reed. Are they strong enough to walk away from another serial killer, or will they just disappear as well? 

The Vanishing Season is the debut novel from Joanna Schaffhausen that reads like any of the best serial killer novels on the shelf. With an eye to detail and emotion, Schaffhausen creates a story that could happen tomorrow almost anywhere in America. It's so prescient it's disturbing, and by that I do mean that I'm a little afraid to go to sleep tonight. But I'm sure that will pass. Eventually. 

The Vanishing Season, even with its disturbing plot, is well-written, beautifully paced story, and I won't be at all surprised when it shows up at my local movie theater. But don't wait until then, You know the book is always better. So read it now. Just leave lots of lights on. 


Galleys for The Vanishing Season were provided by Minotaur Books through, with many thanks.