Vanish by Tess Gerritsen

vanishI am back to reading and back to reading crime which maybe wasn’t a good idea. Especially considering how I had to work through Vanish. Here we have another predictably solved tale that could have been great but simply wasn’t. I have written about what I like and don’t like in Gerritsen’s writing and this fifth novel of the Rizzoli & Isles-series has too much of the dislikes and too little of the likes.

As always, the idea is a good one:

Russian girls are smuggled into the U.S. to become slaves to male desires – not an uncommon occurence and certainly a story worth telling. One of these women turns up supposedly dead in Maura’s morgue and the Medical Examiner finds herself in an frightening position of discovering that the woman is not dead. Jane finds out about how alive this woman really is when she is taken hostage by her while being in the throes of childbirth. But what drives the young woman to these desperate measures, what does she want? Her tale is revealed in narrative strings that lead to the one person with too much power and a secret he wants to keep.

Gerritsen knows how to pick exciting stories, her ideas are captivating. Unfortunately, the execution is often lacking. Or, at least, I find it so. And it is just possible that Gerritsen reaches into too many of my dislikes and that nobody else finds fault with how she strings a tale.

As I have already written, I found the solution predictable. That last plot twist that should have been surprising simply wasn’t, sad but not the most disappointing part of the novel. What irked me more, was Gerritsen’s un-focus on one protagonist. As part of the Rizzoli & Isles-series one might have assumed that it would be one or both of these characters (and maybe we shouldn’t just assume this since the book was published BEFORE Rizzoli & Isles became a brandname of a very popular tv show that focuses almost entirely on the protagonists’ chemistry). But Gerritsen pretty much abandons them – and their outstanding chemistry – throughout the tale to lay more focus on Jane’s husband, Gabriel Dean. With Jane in labor and Maura without corpses to work on, Dean takes the focal point – at least for part of the story. Other parts are told from the point of view of Mila, one of the Russian girls. Only at the end, Jane resumes her duties as crime-fighting detective – with a baby strapped to her hip.

I didn’t mind the idea of Jane being a parent as much as I minded the way Gerritsen described the inequality of motherhood vs. fatherhood. It is too much of an accepted convention that motherhood means ‘more’ in the great scheme of parenthood than what a father has to bring to the table. Dean may protect his family, but Jane has to be the one to (breast)feed, cuddle, and diaper-change the baby. And Dean is therefore allowed to criticize if Jane fails to do all these things. Again, Gerritsen loses herself in gender-roles that are very traditional and traditionally set without even realizing it.

And while Maura makes the discovery of a living corpse (which is eery and wonderfully told), she wilts to bystander during the course of the novel. She doesn’t even visit her best friend and her baby, she’s simply there to introduce new characters and direct our attention toward the blistering heat of Boston in summer.

Vanish is the result of taking Rizzoli & Isles out of Rizzoli & Isles. After the initial shocks of plot introduction, the novel loses itself in boring character shifting. There’s no interaction between the two friends. The whole novel seems wobbly and out of joint. At least that is the impression I’ve had. Yes, the story is interesting but it needs a lot of time to establish its force and by the time it does, too much of the plot has been revealed to really shock the audience out of its stupor. And this is sad since the idea is quite great – yet the execution…

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