The Vanishing Point
by Val McDermid
5 stars - stay up to late at night to see what happens next kind of good
Yup, hard to stop reading once I started. Stayed up too late at night, late for work, you name it.
Stephanie Harker is on her way through airport security in the US. She's got metal pins in her leg which means she always has to go to the isolation booth (thank you TSA). She's also got young Jimmy by her side. The son of her deceased best friend. Stephanie is returning to the UK to finalize adoption of Jimmy. But, uh oh, while she is in the isolation booth, some dude walks up to Jimmy, talks to him a bit, and walks off with him. What the heck?
Stephanie goes coo coo nutty which the TSA interprets as a terrorist threat. They take her down as she tries to run after Jimmy, then taser her for good measure and drag her into the interrogation room.
By the time they figure out that her child has been kidnapped, well, he's long gone.
The remainder of the book deals primarily with the events leading up to that moment (with some present day interludes to let the reader know what progress - not much - is being made by the FBI in recovering the little tyke).
Stephanie is a ghost writer. She was assigned to pen a book for Scarlett Higgins. Scarlett is one of those people famous for being famous. An overnight celebrity after her appearance on a reality TV show who uses a clever publicist to keep her star shining despite having little apparent talent. Ugh, right?
But Stephanie agrees to write the book and damn if she doesn't kind of start to like Scarlett.
Ms. McDermid teases out clues, false leads, and some nasty business with such craft that I found myself thinking about these characters even when I wasn't reading the book. Who took Jimmy? Is Scarlett really a bimbo? What about her family?
Onward we go. Pretty soon, Stephanie's life is hopelessly entangled with Scarlett's life and things become more and more weird. But it happens in such small increments, that Stephanie almost doesn't even see it coming.
While not up to the standards of Ms. McDermid's Wire in the Blood series, this is still a top notch thriller with great characters and outstanding writing.