We’re in the home stretch alphabet-wise and it’s time to discuss the work of American writer Tess Gerritsen. Vanish is the fifth of Gerritsen’s eight published novels to feature Boston detective Jane Rizzoli and medical examiner Maura Isles and it tackles a couple of subjects with surprising sensitivity for a thriller. It opens rather explosively with Isles about to undertake an examination of one of her ‘clients’ who is thought to have committed suicide when suddenly the woman’s eyes open. She is rushed from the morgue to the hospital where things really start to go awry as she kills a security guard and takes some hostages, including a heavily pregnant Jane Rizzoli.
Without wanting to give away too much more in the way of plot I will say that the book deals with the subject of human trafficking and it does so very well. Of course it’s not the first book to deal with the topic but in depicting the life of a trafficked woman in flashback it gives what feels like a pretty realistic portrayal of how easily such things happen. In fact this aspect was a highlight of the book for me: the way it depicts the notion of an ‘American dream’ still being a palpable force for many people outside the country. Having ‘lost’ a brother to the American dream (i.e. he moved there permanently more than 20 years ago though his defection has proven useful as a holiday destination) I thought Gerritsen did a really great job of depicting the longing that many people have for what they believe America can offer them and how, if you’ve a nasty streak in you, it is easy to exploit people’s desire to attain that dream.
On one level this is a sold and fast-paced thriller about a desperate young women who is the victim of some vicious criminals and the almost ubiquitous government cover-up that accompanies such tales these days. However, I liked the fact that the book had another layer of interest beyond the thrills and threw in some small p politics for good measure. I’ve never quite warmed to the character of Maura Isles, though she is more credible than Kay Scarpetta or Temperence Brennan, but I do like Jane Rizzoli who I’ve always thought of as a slightly more together version of Elizabeth George’s Barbara Havers. This is my favourite of the Rizzoli/Isles series and the good news is I think it’s perfectly readable as a standalone.