The Vanished Ones by Donato Carrisi
|The Vanished Ones by Donato Carrisi|
|Reviewer: Lesley Mason|
|Summary: Mila joined the Missing Persons Bureau so that she wouldn't have to visit crime scenes... but when a young boy phones to say that his family have all been shot dead, she finds herself dragged into a murder case that doesn't make any sense. Absolutely gripping tale of a search for answers whilst the body count keeps rising.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 464||Date: January 2015|
|External links: Author's website|
Room 13 in the basement of the state morgue is where the sleepers are kept. These are the unclaimed bodies that have been classified as PHVs. Potential Homicide Victims. They are kept indefinitely, because they are evidence that a crime has been committed, possibly the only evidence.
One day someone comes in and asks to see a body, the one who has been here the longest.
A child phones the emergency services and explains that they're all dead. His family were having dinner and a man came and shot them. They're all dead. He's still here.
Jes's family aren't PHVs they're quite definitely murder victims and Mila is not a homicide detective. Not any more. There are hints that she might have been, before. I haven't read the earlier book The Whisperer . If you have the hints will make more sense – and if I've got it wrong, please don't feel the need to tell me, I'd rather find out by going back to the whole story.
For now all we know, those of us who haven't come across her before, is that something traumatic happened to Mila, traumatic enough for her to want to stay away from crime scenes, hence her transfer into Limbo. Limbo is what they call the missing persons department: the long term missing, the ones no-one (except their loved ones and these few dedicated officers) ever really expect to find.
Mila has a bit of a sideline in trying to stop crimes happening, or at least to stop the victims of them becoming another photo on the wall of the 'Waiting Room'. We meet her watching a house, breaking in, trying to find out what's odd… and finding it.
This is what she does. She doesn't investigate murders. So why, when Jes's call comes in, do the top brass want her assigned to this particular case?
Because, it seems, some of the missing are returning. And they are taking revenge…
Joining up with a pariah of the force, to conduct a largely off-the-record investigation Mia gets in far deeper than she knows she should. After all, she also has her own daughter to think about.
Intelligent, thrilling and incredibly compelling and Shiveringly intelligent are two of the quotes on the cover. I only quote the cover assessments when I absolutely agree and cannot find a better way of putting it. This is a gripper of a book. 450 pages that turn themselves and call to you to come back if you've had to put it down and get on with your real life for an hour or so.
There are two basic types of crime books: those that rely on the puzzle (the intellectual – in the broadest sense) and those that rely on making you care about the characters, about the outcome (the emotional). The very best crime writers combine both. They engage the brain, making you determined to figure out exactly what's going on before the detectives do, and they engage the emotions snaring you into investing in the outcome (as if you could somehow change it). This is one of those.
That Carrisi's background is academic might have something to do with his skill as a writer. His experience in law, criminology and behavioural sciences certainly gives him a solid base from which to spin his fiction: in this case a fiction which could spin off in more than one direction straying into supernatural realms or remaining grounded in human constructs of evil.
There is also something commercially clever about Carrisi's work. He is Italian and his inspiration for some of his characters come from real-life Rome policemen. One can assume therefore that the setting is Rome or some other Italian city.
But it could equally be Greece, or America, or some other country that might have a Federal Police force. Carrisi has that gift of creating a sense of place – the dark streets, the white picket fences of suburbia, apartments, office-blocks – without tying that place to an actual locality. Once I'd got past worrying about what country I was in – which might even be part of the point of the story, this could happen anywhere – I could picture those scenes in the nearest equivalents in my imagination. A pretty smart way to improve your chances of international readership, and maybe interest the filmmakers with the money? Perhaps. Perhaps it's just the natural outcome of having started fiction-writing for stage and screen, where locality is necessarily reduced to succinct visuals.
All of which only matters to those readers who also write.
For the general reader what matters is the plot – and it is flawless.
One to be savoured.
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