Review: The Vanishing Season by Joanna Schaffhausen

30654172★★★

This novel reads like the author really likes to watch the Hallmark Channel or Lifetime movies. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, if you’re into that.

Lort knows, I’ve binged all of the Aurora Teagarden movies like a fucking champ.

The Vanishing Season ticks off a lot of boxes on the “Cozy Lifetime Mystery Checklist.”

That’s a thing. Let’s go through it…

In a small town (✔️), Abigail Hathaway, who now goes by Ellery and escaped a serial killer as a teenager, (✔️) is now a cop herself (✔️). But no one knows about her dark past (✔️) and she intends to keep it that way. Ellery, with knowledge no one else has (✔️) connects three seemingly unrelated missing persons’ cases that she’s never worked on (✔️) and decides there must be a copycat killer in her tiny town (✔️), but no one believes her (✔️) and won’t, unless she outs her true identity (✔️). What this killer really wants is her (✔️)! The killer starts to leave her notes and packages to let her know he knows who she is, and is watching her (✔️).

Ellery calls for backup in the form of a disgraced FBI agent (✔️), who also happens to be the same agent that saved her from certain death all those years ago (✔️).

I can totally see a C-list actress in the lead role – a Laura Prepon, Candace Cameron Bure or Haylie Duff – gasping at mysterious birthday cards and empty beer bottles that are too close to her property, having an affair with her boss and dodging out of the way of a car that tries to run her off a dark, empty road.

From up here on my high horse, I’ve got to say there is nothing especially original or interesting about this book. It just is what it is.

The plot points are fairly generic, and SUPER tame in terms of their sinister quality. Honestly, birthday cards and beer bottles don’t get my heart racing. The severed hands that randomly pop up, so to speak, could provide a more sensitive reader with a good thrill, but to me it almost came across as silly.

Ellery, as a character, I found more annoying than anything else. I can understand her not wanting to reveal who she really is, but it did reach a point where her “but I don’t wanna because my privacy!” came across like she was a whiny, selfish bitch baby when compared to the dire situation of, you know, people dying and being kidnapped by a murderer connected to her. That kind of stuff. “I don’t wanna!” doesn’t really hold up in that climate. A likeable character would have known when to be self-sacrificing.

Also I could not have given less of a shit about Markham’s divorce. It should have been taken out of the novel completely. His ex wife added nothing to the story. His issues on the job were more than enough to make him seem like a loser.

For a such a short story (the hardcover I read clocked in at 274 pages), it’s surprisingly sleepy, but manages to also pack in a lot of character information. I didn’t find it suspenseful or creepy, but rather quiet and simple, kind of like the town Ellery lived in.

The atmosphere is decidedly dark, but I just didn’t feel the level of the crimes reached the level of the atmosphere. The crimes were all around too safe, too gentle and too easy to predict and felt disjointed inside the setting the author created.

Also, there is literally nothing I hate more than a villain who monologues his childhood and motive and actions while holding a weapon at the end of a story. This is not therapy hour and it really bogs down a climax.

That’s what she said!

As far as Lifetime stories go, it’s a fine read. Not awful, not amazing either. If you like this kind of thing than I promise it’s right up your Gail O’Grady Alley.

That’s a thing, too.

The cover gets an A+, though.

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