Day 514: The Vanishing Point

Cover for The Vanishing PointI’ve found the last few Val McDermid novels I’ve read disappointing, and The Vanishing Point is no exception. First, it begins by using a contrivance that is not at all successful.

Stephanie Harker’s adoptive son Jimmy is kidnapped from the secure area of O’Hare Airport while she is in the full body scanner. After an initial frantic period of activity, she sits down with FBI agent Vivian McKuras to tell the long tale of how she became Jimmy’s guardian.

Even though this story is necessary to understand the novel, its context within a police interview during a search for a missing child is not at all convincing. I doubt very many police interviews consist of one person talking for hours without any questions from the police. Then there is the issue of how McKuras can lead the investigation if she is interviewing Stephanie all night long. Presenting this information as a series of flashbacks would have taken care of the problem. This is an unusual misjudgment for McDermid.

The bulk of the novel centers around Stephanie’s relationship with Scarlett Higgins, a reality TV star who hires Stephanie to ghostwrite a memoir for her. Although Scarlett maintains a persona of a dumb blonde, Stephanie quickly realizes that Scarlett is a lot smarter than she seems and grows to like her. Stephanie becomes involved in Scarlett’s life, her marriage to a popular D.J., and all the difficulties of her celebrity.

When Scarlett dies of cancer, she leaves her young son Jimmy to Stephanie’s care. The story is long and complicated but doesn’t turn up many suspects in the kidnapping except Stephanie’s own stalker ex-boyfriend Pete. In fact, the novel gets fairly involving and does a good job of leading its readers down the garden path for quite some time.

I won’t give away the ending, but it is so completely far-fetched that it left me gasping. Despite its rough beginning, McDermid as ever writes a gripping novel, but this one ends up in the stratosphere.

4 thoughts on “Day 514: The Vanishing Point

  1. The Resurgent Bookworm May 2, 2014 / 12:52 pm

    Hi ! I totally get your point about the interrogation even though I haven’t read the book . I felt the same way while reading Four Corners of Night recently. 1 character keeps talking for the length of close to 10 pages on child abuse and the listening character doesn’t contribute a thing ! Seemed very odd to me. :-l

    • whatmeread May 2, 2014 / 12:56 pm

      I ran into that several years ago in a Swedish procedural. It reminded me of Wilkie Collins’ technique in The Moonstone, but he got away with it by saying the sections were written statements by the witnesses.

      • The Resurgent Bookworm May 3, 2014 / 1:58 am

        Yes but I felt Moonstone was able to sustain some interest throughout the story. By the way , even in the novel I mentioned, the one on the receiving end of the narration is a cop ! 🙂

      • whatmeread May 5, 2014 / 7:32 am

        The Moonstone’s narratives were good because the personalities of the witnesses were so pronounced.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.