The Vanishing Point

( 6 )

Overview

“[McDermid’s] work is taut, psychologically complex and so gripping that it puts your life on hold.”—The Times (UK)

“Masterfully handled, and McDermid’s ability to wrong-foot the reader remains second to none: highly recommended.”—The Guardian (UK)

From one of the finest crime writers we have, The Vanishing Point kicks off with a nightmare scenario—the abduction of a child in an international airport. Stephanie Harker is in the screening booth ...

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The Vanishing Point

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Overview

“[McDermid’s] work is taut, psychologically complex and so gripping that it puts your life on hold.”—The Times (UK)

“Masterfully handled, and McDermid’s ability to wrong-foot the reader remains second to none: highly recommended.”—The Guardian (UK)

From one of the finest crime writers we have, The Vanishing Point kicks off with a nightmare scenario—the abduction of a child in an international airport. Stephanie Harker is in the screening booth at airport security, separated from Jimmy Higgins, the five-year-old boy she’s in the process of adopting, when a man in a TSA uniform leads the boy away. The more Stephanie sounds the alarm, the more the security agents suspect her, and the further away the kidnapper gets. It soon becomes clear nothing in this situation is clear cut. For starters, Jimmy’s birth mother was a celebrity—living in a world where conspiracy and obfuscation are excused for the sake of column inches. And then there are the bad boys in both women’s pasts. As FBI agent Vivian McKuras and Scotland Yard Detective Nick Nikolaides investigate on both sides of the pond, Stephanie learns just how deep a parent’s fear can reach. And the horrifying reality is that she has good reason to be afraid—for reasons she never saw coming.

The Vanishing Point . . . is marked by [McDermid’s] trademark stunners, including a climax that packs a vicious punch. And readers are again left to marvel at her ingenuity.”—Jay Strafford, Richmond Times-Dispatch

“McDermid knows crime, but more importantly, she knows the dark side of men and women and the havoc they can wreak on each other’s lives. . . . The Vanishing Point is a stand-alone and does it ever. . . . Th[e] opening is shocking, edge-of-your-seat unnerving and violent on different levels. The reader is immediately drawn in by Harker’s overwhelming panic and fear. It’s taut, smart, vivid writing.”—Victoria Brownworth, Lambda Literary (online)

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Putting her series characters Tony Hill and Carol Jordan on the back burner temporarily, McDermid (The Retribution) delivers a solid stand-alone combining the high-stakes hunt for a missing child with the dark underbelly of celebrity culture. Usually content to work behind the scenes, ghostwriter Stephanie Harker's world changes when she signs on to write reality-TV star Scarlett Higgins's autobiography. A brash former contestant from the fictional British show Goldfish Bowl, Scarlett has made a career out of being outspoken. Stephanie and Scarlett develop an unlikely friendship, and Stephanie grows attached to Scarlett's son, Jimmy, whose father is a fame-crazed DJ. When Scarlett discovers she's dying of cancer, the question of Jimmy's future looms large. Since McDermid opens with a chilling scene in which five-year-old son Jimmy, traveling with Stephanie, is snatched from Chicago's O'Hare Airport, it's clear whom Scarlett ultimately chooses to look after her son. Stephanie and Scarlett's often tumultuous relationship is glimpsed in flashbacks, juxtaposed with the present-day search for Jimmy, hampered both by the fact that he's not Stephanie's son and the slickness of a kidnapper who leaves no tracks. Though Stephanie is quickly forgettable, larger-than-life Scarlett is a chance for McDermid to explore a different kind of ugliness than she tackles in her series novels. (Sept. 2012)
Kirkus Reviews
Against all expectations, London ghostwriter Stephanie Harker becomes friends with her latest subject, bad girl reality show star Scarlett Higgins, only to become caught up in a scheme that leads to the abduction of Scarlett's little boy. The book opens at Chicago's O'Hare Airport, where Stephanie, who has become five-year-old Jimmy's guardian, flips out when she sees a male stranger lead him away as she's being examined in a security box. After being Tasered by agents and told she's making up the abduction, she pours out an exhaustive account of the events leading up to it to a sympathetic female FBI agent. Though "Scarlett Harlot" gained fame as an epithet-spouting bimbo on a survivor-type show, Goldfish Bowl, she actually is a woman of savvy intelligence who invented that image to escape her bad circumstances. Like Stephanie, whose moody musician boyfriend attempts to control her, Scarlett has a disagreeable mate: a gadabout club DJ who is into drugs and guns. The women become close, shutting the men out of their lives after Jimmy is born, and closer still after Scarlett is diagnosed with cancer. To escape the tabloids, Scarlett imports a half sister who looks a lot like her to be her public surrogate. The story also involves a British detective with whom Stephanie becomes involved, a doctor who devotes himself to the terminal Scarlett, and a Romanian nanny. For all its twists, the narrative never gains traction. The plotting is so mechanical, the writing so pedestrian ("She watched, the tension in her body growing with every passing minute"), you half suspect this book was concocted not by McDermid, author of such masterpieces as A Place of Execution (2000), but a different kind of ghostwriter. If anything vanishes in this book, it's the first-rate writing fans of McDermid (best known in the States for her Wire in the Blood series) have come to expect.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802120526
  • Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 10/2/2012
  • Pages: 416
  • Sales rank: 1,390,807
  • Product dimensions: 6.38 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.42 (d)

Meet the Author


Val McDermid is the author of twenty-five previous best-selling novels, which have been translated into over forty languages and have sold over ten million copies worldwide.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 6 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 25, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    The Vanishing Point

    In her twenty-sixth novel, a standalone, Val McDermid goes rather far afield from her previous books. It opens with a child abduction at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago. While a passenger is going through an airport security check, a man in what appears to be a TSA uniform appears and guides the five-year-old boy traveling with her through the terminal and they both seem to disappear. It soon falls to 27-year-old FBI Special Agent Vivian McKuras to interview the woman, Stephanie Harker, the godmother [and planned adoptive mother] of the little boy, Jimmy. The boy’s mother, Scarlett Higgins [dubbed by the media as The Scarlett Harlot] had been a reality-tv star, one of those famous for being famous, with whom Stephanie had ghost-written several books, becoming best friends in the process. The question becomes: Had this been “a random abduction, a spur-of-the-moment snatch,” or had Jimmy been a very specific target?

    In order to ascertain into which category this falls, Vivian questions Stephanie at length as to the entire background and history of all concerned. What ensues is a rather lengthy tale, the story zig-zagging from those flashbacks to the present time as the investigation shifts into high gear. The boy’s father, who Scarlett married shortly before his birth in a media-planned circus, had died from a drug-overdose not long afterwards, Scarlett more recently after a very public battle with cancer. Stephanie puts Vivian in touch with a UK counterpart, and everything becomes more complex. As it nears its end, the plot takes a very unexpected turn, morphing into a stunning conclusion.

    Stephanie is a fascinating protagonist, one who takes refuge in her profession. When it is suggested to her that she could sell her story to a magazine, her response is: “‘I don’t want to have a story.’ I like being a ghost. Insubstantial. Transparent. Anonymous.” An intriguing tale it is, in which manic stalkers [of both genders] are a theme. [The author thoughtfully includes a glossary at book’s end, translating Brit-speak for the American readers.] Val McDermid just keeps getting better.

    Highly recommended.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 19, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    There are certain authors I always can count on to provide me w


    There are certain authors I always can count on to provide me with an excellent read, a brief escape into a world I can laugh at or be mesmerized by, a world that shakes me to the core for one reason or another. I understand, though, that many of those authors whose work I admire so much might stumble now and then. The Vanishing Point is Val McDermid‘s stumble.

    Ms. McDermid is a wonderful writer—I have enjoyed everything of hers I’ve read until this one—and even this has some redeeming aspects. It’s not a BAD book; it just doesn’t rise to the level of her usual top notch work and that becomes evident early in the story.

    Most of the disappointment I had was in regard to the credibility of the story. For a woman who shows a lot of inner strength and is clearly able to take care of herself, Stephanie seems too insecure, beyond what could be attributed to her past relationship. More importantly, what happens in the airport just isn’t believable enough. Stephanie knows she will have to be screened or patted down because of the metal in her leg so why wouldn’t she make sure the child stayed close by? As much as we, the public, dislike the behavior of a few TSA employees (and as much as we may hate the whole system), I have a hard time believing they would so totally dismiss her screams for help when she sees what’s happening. And, when it becomes obvious that time is critical, no FBI agent would allow Stephanie to go on and on with the backstory, nor would Stephanie want to blather on while little is being done to find Jimmy. The last straw for me was when I realized that she was inexplicably hesitant to tell the FBI agent about the person who is very likely to be behind the kidnapping.

    Unfortunately, with such plot holes early on, I found it hard to engage with the story or even take it as seriously as such a topic deserves but I did finish the book, hoping Ms. McDermid would pull it together. To a certain extent, she did, but the twist ending was too little too late. I have no doubt the author will get back on track with the next book and I’m certainly going to look forward to it but, sadly, this one is not a keeper for me. Our reactions to books are very personal, though, and many of her devoted readers will like it.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 20, 2012

    very good

    interesting like all others from this author

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted April 2, 2013

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