07 December 2006

Vanish, by Tess Gerritsen

December 07 2006 (00:54:00)

401 pages. Ballantine Books, 2006.

In the lunchroom at work we have a "free" table. Items placed on this table are free for the taking. I think there's a couple of t-shirts and a pair of shoes on it right now. Sometimes there's food. I have recently gotten some Jasmine rice and some tea there. Often people leave books. I frequently take advantage of the books. Once they've been read at home, I usually take them back for someone else. I try to make my own contributions to this table from time to time.

A couple of weeks ago I found Vanish on the table, and took it home with me. This is a very effective thriller, which I read in about 5 hours. Great literature, it's not -- but it has the quality of suspense and excitement that allowed me to suspend disbelief and criticism and get wrapped up in its plot and characters sufficiently to devour its pages in one long bite on a cold November Saturday afternoon-evening.

The story begins with a description of some illegal aliens from Eastern Europe being smuggled into the USA from Mexico. It then jumps to the city of Boston, where a busy medical examiner discovers a live person accidentally delivered to her morgue's refrigerated storage. It picks up speed, includes a very pregnant police detective and her FBI-agent husband who quickly become involved in the hostage-taking which is central to the plot.

I thoroughly enjoyed Vanish and will read another Gerritsen when I get the opportunity. I see that she is the author of Body Double. I assume that the film of the same name was based on that novel. I saw that film several years ago, and dimly recall it as a strange and suspenseful experience.

Having recently been roundly critical of another thriller that I didn't read nearly as fast as this one, I have to point out at least one defect in Vanish. While the mechanism of having the live person discovered in the morgue is certainly a frightening attention-grabber, I fail to see why it is a necessary part of the plot. Indeed, it's never really fully explained -- unless I missed that in my breakneck scan of the text. And what about the title? Surely a better one could have been chosen. The Die is Cast? Playing for Keeps? I don't know.

But don't let these minor details keep you from reading Vanish. I recommend it.

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