Click here to read reviewer Angela McQuay's take on Vanish.
Tess Gerritsen just keeps churning out the extremely readable Jane Rizzoli/Maura Isles series of thrillers, and Vanish is her best one yet. While Gerritsen has always been able to keep me reading, I've been able to put the book down to do other things occasionally. Not so this time. I finished Vanish in a day, mainly because of the nearly flawless combination of plot, prose, and character. While not completely perfect, this book is definitely at the top of my Gerritsen chart.
Pathologist Maura Isles is doing her routine work at the morgue when she hears a strange sound coming from the cooler where bodies are stored prior to dissection. As she enters, one of the bodies rises up and begins getting violent. Forcibly restrained and sent to the hospital, the young woman continues fighting against her restraints as the authorities try to determine who she is. When pregnant detective Jane Rizzoli's water breaks while she's in court, she ends up going to the same hospital. The woman breaks loose, and a hostage situation develops. The investigation into the standoff after its resolution brings more questions and answers, leading Rizzoli and Isles on a race to discover the young woman's horrible past before it can be covered up by the government.
In the past, I've criticized Gerritsen's work for defining both of her main characters essentially through their relationships with the men in their life, or at least through attraction to them. In Vanish, she largely avoids that, with the notable exception of Isles' huge attraction to a reporter who is heavily involved with the case. Nonetheless, Gerritsen's character work with Rizzoli and her husband (FBI agent Gabriel Dean) is so outstanding that I was able to forgive her. Rizzoli and Dean make a wonderful team, showcasing their love for one another while maintaining independent strength. They are two characters who happen to be together, with much more than their relationship defining them. I do wish Gerritsen would do something with Korsack, though. His unrequited love for Rizzoli grates on the nerves; when he only appears in a scene or two, it distracts from everything else.
As for the plotting, Gerritsen once again begins the narrative with a scene that makes no sense to the rest of the plot until well into the book, though this time she doesn't wait quite as long before revealing the connection. This works extremely well in Vanish; even when we see the connection, Gerritsen continues the flashbacks to show how the characters reached their current state. The descriptions of these scenes are sometimes more intriguing than the "current" plotline, and the ending of the novel ties directly into the beginning, showing exactly why these sequences are written the way they are.
What is truly excellent about this book is how Gerritsen breaks her plot down into its separate parts and shapes it so that the reader never knows what's coming next. Sure, I had an inkling of a couple things that might happen, but usually these feelings came right before Gerritsen chose to reveal the truth anyway. The ending is riveting Rizzoli faces the horror of having her child (and her life) snatched away from her before she can ever truly become used to being a parent. I do have to say that I hope Gerritsen avoids using the "baby in danger" plotline too often, but here it works because it solidifies Rizzoli's maternal feelings and how she resolves her internal dilemma about raising a child.
This seems like a broken record if you read a series of my reviews of Gerritsen's books, but she has such a reputation for gore that I feel I have to say it every time. While she pulls no punches in the autopsy scenes (and actually avoids the annoying personalization of them that bothered me in Body Double), the rest of the book isn't gross in the least. Disturbing, yes, but there is little gore beyond the examination table.
Overall, Vanish is the best Gerritsen
book I've read. It held me enthralled from beginning to end, and the major crisis is heartbreaking in its reality (sex trafficking with young girls is a huge problem, even today). Her prose is wonderful, the characters marvelous. I dare you to put this book down before finishing it. It's that good.