Three people have disappeared in three years in a small town in Massachusetts. Ellery Hathaway, a local police officer, believes the disappearances are connected, but nobody takes her seriously since she has no evidence or at least none that she is willing to share. Two years in a row she has received a birthday card from an anonymous sender. Ellery has not told anyone when her birthday is since she changed her name and started a new life in a new town. She believes the killer knows that she was once Abigail Hathaway, who was abducted on her birthday by a killer who murdered sixteen other girls. Could this be the same killer, somehow reaching out to her from jail, or is there a copycat on the loose? Time is running out to save the next victim, so Ellery reaches out for help to FBI agent who rescued her from the killer's clutches so many years ago. The Vanishing Season is a pretty quick read, and the first few chapters did have me intrigued. However, I started to lose interest as I went on. It is Joanna Schaffhausen's first novel and it could have done with better editing as there are a few plot holes. One of the reviews the publishers put on the back says it has a "twist readers won't see coming" but I'm flummoxed as to what the reviewer meant by this since it didn't have anything I would describe as a twist. It's fairly obvious from early on who the killer is, and the plot is straightforward, except for the parts that don't make sense (such as how Ellery, who would have had to pass background checks to join the police service, could have kept her past secret from her boss), but those are holes, not twists. The ending felt rushed, and, without wishing to spoil it, I wasn't quite sure how one of the characters managed to do what they needed to survive.
I did like the interaction between Ellery and Reed Markham, the FBI agent who rescued Ellery as a child and came out to help her with this new case. Some of the dialogue was quite snappy and clever, and Reed's profiles of the suspects were interesting. It's also not terribly gruesome, as a book involving a serial killer could easily have been. Ellery has some horrific trauma in her past, but the specific things that happened to her and the other victims are only mentioned, never described in detail. Severed hands are involved, but the severing happens off-screen, so to speak.
The Vanishing Season is a decent, short crime novel, without too much gore. It's not particularly suspenseful, but it has appealing characters and a simple third-person narrative for the most part, which may appeal to readers who are sick of devices like flashbacks and unreliable narrators. Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Minotaur Books, via NetGalley, in Exchange for an honest review. Published: 5 December 2017