The Vanishing Point
By Val McDermid, HarperCollins, 434 pages, $22.95
This novel, one of McDermid’s best stand-alones, begins with a trek though airport security. Stephanie Harker and her five-year-old ward, Jimmy, are on their way to Disneyland. To get there from London, they have to change planes in Chicago. They dutifully line up, wait, line up again. Stephanie knows that the plate in her leg will set off the alarm, so she tells Jimmy to wait as she goes through the doorway and is whisked aside for a personal inspection. As she is being prodded and questioned, a man in a security uniform takes Jimmy’s hand and the two walk away. Stephanie screams, tries to run, is restrained and eventually tasered. By the time she convinces airport security that she’s not a criminal, Jimmy is long gone.
The hunt for Jimmy is the tale here, but the clues to his disappearance lie in his and Stephanie’s shared past, and that takes us into the netherworld of international celebrity. Jimmy’s mother was Scarlet Higgins, child of poverty and neglect, who came to fame on a British reality television show. Stephanie was Scarlet’s ghost writer. Together, they sculpted the public persona of Scarlet the Harlot, hard partyer, tough gal. But there is far, far more to Scarlet’s life than anyone, even Stephanie, supposes. This book builds to a climax and there are at least three twists. Just when you think you know what’s coming, it doesn’t.
Salvation of a Saint
By Keigo Higashino, translated by Alexander O. Smith, Minotaur, 336 pages, $28.99
Here is the perfect novel for readers who love puzzle plots from one of Japan’s foremost mystery authors. The detective is physics professor Manabu Yukawa, and the murder, it appears, is impossible. The dead man, Yoshitaka, was murdered with a cup of poisoned coffee. He was about to leave his wife and she is the logical suspect, but she was more than 100 miles away when he died. One Tokyo homicide investigator believes she’s innocent, another is convinced of her guilt. Prof. Yukawa must use all his talents to sort the clues and find the truth.
By Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Friis, translated by Tara Chace, Soho, 340 pages, $29.95
This is a superb second novel from the authors of The Boy in the Suitcase. The setting is again Denmark, and the protagonist is the gutsy Red Cross nurse Nina Borg. The background is the ongoing tragedy of the Roma people, the traditional Gypsies, who are an oppressed minority in Eastern Europe and unwanted migrants in the West. This story begins in the ruins of the Soviet period and then moves to an abandoned garage in Copenhagen, where Nina comes upon a group of Roma boys hiding a terrible secret. As with the earlier novel, Kaaberbol and Friis tell a moral tale as well as a mystery.
The Fallen One
By Rick Blechta, Dundurn, 384 pages, $17.95
What if you lost a beloved husband under terrible circumstances, say a fire in your home. You were not there; you were performing in New York at the Metropolitan Opera. If you had been at home, you might have saved him. But you were not there. That’s the beginning of this terrific novel from Toronto’s Rick Blechta. Marta Hendriks cannot stop grieving, but after months of therapy, she is able to resume her singing career. Then, in a Paris bus shelter, she sees her supposedly dead husband. Is he real or the fantasy of a sick mind?