Tess Gerritsen






Ballantine Books, 2005
Reviewed by Joy Calderwood

Dr. Maura Isles of the Medical Examiner’s Office is horrified to discover one of her corpses breathing. Jane Doe, an attractive young woman who was found floating in the bay with alcohol and barbiturates in her blood, is suddenly the center of sensational attention from the news media. It gets worse. Jane Doe takes hostages in the hospital, demanding that someone listen to her story. She doesn’t trust the officials whose job it is to listen to hostage-takers.

Detective Jane Rizzoli, very pregnant, is one of the hostages. Her husband Gabriel and their friend Dr. Isles feel that something is wrong with the records of Jane Doe and her confederate as they are described by FBI agents. How – and why – did the FBI get involved so quickly?

During breaks in this plot we are given glimpses of someone’s past. Mila, from Eastern Europe, hopes to sneak into the United States by way of Mexico, but finds herself sold into slavery instead. Trained to please men who enjoy brutality, her group of teenaged girls can only hope to survive – not many of them will. What readers don’t know is which of these people will play what role in the hospital hostage situation.

VANISH is intensely suspenseful, fast-paced, and high-impact. I read it in a few hours, unable to stop. Then I had to force myself to pick it back up again, to review it, because of the horror and gore.

It would have left a better taste in my mouth if I felt the main characters lived. Yes, they have dimensions, especially Jane Rizzoli as she tries to solve the personal issues involved in becoming a working mother: What do I have the right to do? How can I handle it? Probably many working mothers will identify with her to an extent. But author Tess Gerritsen addresses their problems with her intellect, whether the problem is professional or personal. They are plot points.

By contrast, Mila and her best friends move from each second to the next without stepping out of their skins – their perceptions are immediate and emotional. As horrible as their lives are, they live. To compare VANISH with another novel: Giles Blunt’s BLACK FLY SEASON is even more bloodthirsty than VANISH, but because of the immediacy of its main characters, BLACK FLY SEASON is great where VANISH is competent.

VANISH has a fast, intelligent plot well laced with gore. If that contents you, it will give you an exciting read, with a lot of what is probably realistic background. Fans will be glad to know that the full backlog of Tess Gerritsen’s books about Jane Rizzoli and Maura Isles has been re-released.

Dec 2006


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