In The Spotlight: Tess Gerritsen’s Vanish

>In The Spotlight: Reginald Hill's An Advancement of LearningHello, All,

Welcome to another edition of In The Spotlight. I’m particularly pleased about this edition because it’s a’by-request’ spotlight. It’s always a real pleasure to have you let me know what you’d like to see spotlighted, so if there is a book you want to see here, please do contact me (margotkinberg(at)gmail(dot)com) and I’ll do my best.

Today’s spotlight is on the work of Tess Gerritsen, whose Jane Rizzoli/Maura Isles series has been consistently popular. It’s about time this feature included one of her novels. So let’s take a closer look at Vanish, the fifth Rizzoli/Isles novel.

After a brief introductory chapter, the story follows Boston medical examiner Dr. Maura Isles as she prepares to end her workday. She’s just about to lock up and leave when she thinks she hears a noise. She traces the sound to one of the body bags, unzips the bag and discovers to her shock that the young woman inside is alive. Isles gives the alarm and the woman is rushed as quickly as possible to the hospital across the street. The only thing that’s known about her is that the police had taken her body out of Hingham Bay, where they’d pronounced her dead.

To everyone’s further shock, the young woman, who is unidentified, recovers quickly and rushes out of her hospital room after killing a security guard. Now armed, she goes to the hospital’s Diagnostic Imaging department, where she takes a group of people hostage. That group includes Boston PD’s Jane Rizzoli, who is overdue to give birth. She was sent to Diagnostic Imaging for a sonogram and arrived just before the hostage-taker did. Rizzoli’s obstetrician, Dr. Stephanie Tam, is also among the hostages.

The Boston PD, a SWAT team, and other groups now have to plan a strategy to find out what the hostage-taker wants and try to rescue those in danger. Matters are made more delicate because Rizzoli is a police officer. Everyone’s afraid that if it’s revealed that she is a cop, she will be in that much more danger. The intrusive media makes the job of keeping that fact quiet all the more difficult. It doesn’t help, either, that no-one seems to know who the young woman is or why she’s taken hostages.

It soon becomes clear, too, that this hostage situation has far-reaching implications. The FBI get involved and insist on taking control of the case. And even Rizzoli’s husband, FBI Agent Gabriel Dean, doesn’t exactly know why. Still, he, Isles and Rizzoli’s police partner Barry Frost work together to try to get answers before anyone else is killed.

In the meantime, we follow another plot line. This one concerns seventeen-year-old Mila, who left her home in Belarus with her friend Anja. They were lured with promises of jobs and a better life in the United States, but to say the least, things haven’t worked out as planned. Little by little, the two plots unfold and we find out how they are related (and no, it’s not as obvious as you might think). It turns out that one cryptic phrase that Rizzoli hears is the key to finding out the truth.

One of the important elements in this novel is the level of suspense. The tension is built in several ways. One is, of course, the hostage situation. From the point of view of both the hostages and those trying to rescue them, we see just how desperate such an emergency can be. There is a real possibility that people will be killed, and everyone knows it. Along with this is that we get a ‘behind-the-scenes’ look at what various US police agencies do when there is a hostage crisis.

The tension is also built as the rescue team gradually learns the truth behind what’s happened. It isn’t really clear who can be trusted and who can’t. And those who can’t be trusted are powerful and wealthy enough to cover up what they don’t want revealed. There’s a real sense too that for certain people, individual lives do not matter.

Another element in the novel is the unflinching look we get at human trafficking and sex slavery. People don’t like to think of those things happening in the United States, but they happen everywhere. It is ugly and horrific, and readers who are put off by that topic will notice that Gerritson doesn’t gloss over it at all. There is a great deal of sadness in the story because of this, as well as real violence. Readers who prefer lighter novels will notice this.

The story unfolds from two points of view. One, told in the present tense (first person), is Mila’s story. The other, told in the past tense (third person) details the hostage crisis, what comes before it, and what its consequences are. Readers who dislike multiple points of view will notice this. That said though, Gerritsen makes it clear which thread of the plot is being followed at any given time.

Another element in the novel is the look readers get at the connections among some of the highly-placed people in various government and police agencies. These groups don’t operate completely independently, and there’s definitely what’s often called ‘the old boys network.’ Those connections are international too, and they play a role in the novel.

There is a great deal of action in the novel as the two plot threads evolve. Readers who enjoy a fast pace with FBI agents, police, and conspiracy will appreciate that. Those who like ‘down time’ in a novel will notice that there isn’t much of it here. At the same time, readers do get glimpses of Rizzoli and Dean’s home life as well.

The solution to the mystery – the starting point for it – is very sad. And finding out the truth doesn’t put everything right again. That said though, there are some characters who are ‘on the side of the angels’ as the saying goes. And for some of the characters it’s clear that life will go on and even be good.

Vanish tells two stories that approach the same incident from two different angles. It features sleuths who’ve become extremely popular, and takes a painful look at the terrible reality of the consequences of human trafficking. But what’s your view? Have you read Vanish? If you have, what elements do you see in it?

Coming Up On In The Spotlight


Monday 15 December/Tuesday 16 December – Snatch – Bill Pronzini

Monday 22 December/Tuesday 23 December – Malicious Intent – Kathryn Fox

Monday 29 December/Tuesday 30 December – Mercy – Jussi Adler-Olsen


Filed under Tess Gerritsen, Vanish

24 responses to “In The Spotlight: Tess Gerritsen’s Vanish

  1. Johnny Ojanpera

    I’m going to read this one. It sounds good. 🙂

  2. This books sounds so good. I like the fast pace and the suspense. Thanks for the review.

  3. I could only read part of this because I’ve only read the first two of this series and it’s a series I really want to read – along with many others! It sounded really great though from what I read of your spotlight Margot.

    • Rebecca – It’s definitely easier to get a sense of the developments in both Rizzoli’s and Isles’ lives if you begin the series at the beginning. I know all about reading lists and TBRs, but if you do get the chance to try this, I hope you’ll enjoy it.

  4. Another fantastic spotlight and while reading it I was struck by how I avoid certain types of crime in my fiction, human trafficking is one of them which is odd when outright murder doesn’t really bother me. I think maybe it is the organisation and pre-meditated cruelty that makes me want to avoid this part of human nature.

    • Cleo – I know exactly what you mean. Human trafficking is cruel and as you say, premeditated. I think that’s what makes it so very disturbing. Outright murder is horrible too of course. But somehow, it really is different. I will say that in this book, Gerritsen does not ‘sugar coat’ the reality of human trafficking. At the same time, I don’t think she indulges in gratuitous sensationalism either.

  5. I was wondering why you chose to highlight this particular Gerritsen book: was it the subject matter, did you feel it was one of her best? Or was this particular one ‘requested’? I’ve read the odd book in the series, but not really in order, so was curious to see if this is the unmissable one in the series.

    • Marina Sofia – Actually this particular novel was ‘by request,’ and it was my pleasure to do so. I think that to understand the overall development of the characters and a few story arcs, it’s best to read the series in order. At the same time, like you, I’ve found that the books can be read out of order too.

  6. Lin

    Thank you so much, Margot. ^_^

    I’ve been reading this series for the past 2 years and I just want to share with others how great this series is. Currently, I am reading Ice Cold and it’s great so far.


    • Lin – My pleasure! I always like it when people have specific requests, and I’m happy to honour them if I can. Glad to hear that you’re enjoying Ice Cold.

  7. I’ve never read any Tess Geritsen. Clearly another writer I need to try out given the review. I might start with this one!

    • Sarah – Gerritsen has certainly got a large and devoted following. I think the story arcs are best understood if you start at the beginning of the series (well, I suppose that’s true of most series). But you can certainly follow this particular one without having read the others in the series.

  8. Col

    My wife’s a fan, so I’ll be reading this one at some point!

  9. I’m not sure that this sounds like my kind of thing really. However one of the (many) unread books sitting on my Kindle is Bloodstream, which I think is a standalone, so I’ll get a taste for her style when I get around to reading that. Thanks as always for another great spotlight, Margot – they always give a real flavour of the books. 🙂

    • FictionFan – Gerritsen and the Rizzoli/Isles series aren’t everyone’s cuppa. But I will be interested in your take on Gerritsen’s writing style if/when you get to reading Bloodstream. And in the meantime, thanks for the kind words 🙂

  10. This author is one I know about without ever having read – this one sounds tremendously exciting, I will add it to the list.

    • Moira – Gerritsen has become extremely popular, and there is certainly a fast pace and plenty of action in this novel. I’ll be keen to see what you think of it if you do read it.

  11. I’ m a big fan of the TV series, Rizzoli & Isles. I read the first book years ago but don’t remember much about the storyline. But I’m planning on starting the series again based on the show & terrific reviews from bloggers.
    Many thanks for your wonderful, in depth review!

    • Anne – Thanks for the kind words. I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I’ll admit I’ve not seen the TV series, so I can’t compare it to the books. Since you’ve seen both, I’ll be really interested in your thoughts if you get the chance to read the novels.

      • Yes it will be interesting to see how closely the series follows the books. The series was just renewed last week for a 6th season. They air this show as a summer fill-in. I have a few book club books that I need to read over the holidays for Jan meetings…………….but come Feb, I’ll jump right in.
        It may take awhile, but eventually I’ll be able to give you a comparison 🙂

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