VANISHING POINT by Val McDermid – Book Review


Val McDermid


Atlantic Monthly Press


Whenever a new Val McDermid book arrives, I know I am in for a significant decline in the amount of sleep I typically get.  The usual mantra of “just one more chapter before bed,” becomes almost a prayer that the story will let up just long enough to allow me to steal a scant few hours of rest before work.  The blessing and curse of her novels is that it never does.  THE VANISHING POINT exemplifies McDermid’s masterful talent, grabbing me from the first page and never letting up until the final, bone-chilling sentence.

The book begins in the most normal of scenes.  A mother and her child are passing through airport security, when she is pulled aside for a more intensive scan because of surgical implants in her knees.  As she is wheeled away, her son is suddenly stolen away by a kidnapper dressed as a security agent.  In the ensuing chaos, she is held by security agents and her son disappears from the world.

As Stephanie explains to the agents everything that may be relevant to the kidnapping, we are quickly drawn into a world filled with disastrous relationships, dangerous people, and a life in which nothing can be taken at face value.  We learn that the boy is not actually Stephanie’s biological child, but rather the child of Scarlett, a former reality TV star who was most famous for simply being famous.  As Stephanie weaves her story, we are quickly immersed in a sea of drunks, attention-seekers, vile relations, and a seemingly endless stream of suspects.

While reading this book, you quickly realize that this is no ordinary thriller.  This is a book centered on relationships, whether they are romantic, friends, family, or merely the people who fill one’s life.  The brilliance of this narrative is in how wonderfully McDermid plays with the readers emotions.  One moment we are laughing along with two friends on vacation, then violently jerked back to the reality of a missing child and the people who could have perpetrated it.  It’s the emotional equivalent of riding a Tilt-A-Whirl careening down a cliff while blindfolded.

This is certainly one of McDermid’s finest novels and proves her standing among the greats of the genre.  A perfect crime novel laden with subtlety and finesse, it punches the reader continuously with velvet-covered fists.  The plot pulls tighter and tighter with each page until the string finally snaps in an earth-shattering finale.  For those of you who have never read a Val McDermid novel, this is the perfect one to start off on.  For those of you who are familiar with her work, get ready.  This is a hell of a ride.

-Bryan VanMeter