A recent abduction becomes an unexpected link to a decades-long spree of unspeakable crimes.
Eight-year-old Brooklyn Mercer has gone missing. And as accustomed as FBI agents Eliza Sterling and Brandon Eddison are to such harrowing cases, this one has struck a nerve. It marks the anniversary of the disappearance of Eddison’s own little sister. Disturbing, too, is the girl’s resemblance to Eliza—so uncanny they could be mother and daughter.
With Eddison’s unsettled past rising again with rage and pain, Eliza is determined to solve this case at any cost. But the closer she looks, the more reluctant she is to divulge to her increasingly shaken partner what she finds. Brooklyn isn’t the only girl of her exact description to go missing. She’s just the latest in a frightening pattern going back decades in cities throughout the entire country.
In a race against time, Eliza’s determined to bring Brooklyn home and somehow find the link to the cold case that has haunted Eddison—and the entire Crimes Against Children team—since its inception.
The Vanishing Season is the fourth and last instalment in the “The Collector” series by Dot Hutchison. For those of you who are not familiar with the series, allow me to do a quick recap, because you really can’t read this one without have read the previous books in the series.
It all starts in 2016 with The Butterfly Garden, which features “the Gardener” who is actually a serial kidnapper, rapist and killer: the butterflies in his garden are girls who he has taken from their homes, whose backs he then tattoos with butterfly wings. His garden is a kind of brothel, but with girls kept against their wills, and he also kills them when need be. This is first time we meet the FBI agents Victor Hanoverian, Brandon Eddison and Mercedes Ramirez who will major players in the next three books as well.
In 2017, we meet our FBI crew again in Roses of May, featuring a serial killer who leaves their victims surrounded by flowers. We’re introduced to Priya, whose sister fell victim to the serial killer years ago, and now she’s desperate to help catch him.
Last year’s The Summer Children focuses on FBI agent Mercedes Ramirez. Some kind of avenging angel is murdering, nay slaughtering, abusive parents but leaving terrified and traumatised children in her wake. We’re also introduced to agent Eliza Sterling who soon becomes an invaluable part of the team.
And that brings us to The Vanishing Season. After three previous books, my favourite Crimes Against Children team is back for one last case, and what a case it is. An eight-year-old girl with blue eyes and curly blonde hair is missing and our team is meant to find her. This is a particularly tough case, especially for FBI agent Brandon Eddison whose sister went missing when he was in his teens. Said sister was the spitting image of the girl who’s gone missing now, and she was also eight years old. Is there a connection, or is it mere coincidence? As always in this series an exciting investigation ensues, focussing on the team and their ups and downs, both professionally but also on a more personal level. Being the fourth book in the series, they are like family to each other, and also a little to me too. Throughout the series there has been so much character building, and right from the start these characters have felt very real to me. Yes, they are tough, they have to be tough to do their jobs properly, but they are also kind and empathic and flawed. They also work really well as a team, accepting each other’s flaws, helping each other. In this last instalment, I did have a bit of an issue with the tooth-achingly sweetness of it all. On the one hand, it counters the gruesomeness of the case. Although there are no gruesome details, reading about missing eight-year-old girls is hard, you know, and the fact that the team is so sweet and lovely and there’s hugging and everything, kind of softens that blow. On the other hand, there’s hugging. In. Like. Every. Chapter. I am not a hugger (especially not at work, good grief!) and I think I’ve grown accustomed to British thrillers where there is usually zero hugging no matter how close the team are. I do remember a hint of cheesiness from the previous books, but this is the first time it’s bugged me. I think that’s because there’s more of it in The Vanishing Season than in the previous books but it’s also quite possible that my heart has turned a bit blacker since book 3 and can therefore handle less of the sweet stuff, who’s to say. Aaaaanyway, while I do admit to some eye-rolling at the umpteenth hug, this was still a very enjoyable read. I’m very happy with how both this book and this series ended. All loose ends neatly tied up in a very organic way, nothing rushed or forced, and with a cute little epilogue jumping to a few years later, allowing us full closure.
If you’ve read and liked the other books in the series I certainly recommend reading this one. If you haven’t and you enjoy serial killer tales, I recommend that you look into this series, I’ve had a jolly good time with it!
Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the free e-copy. All opinions are my own and I was not paid to give them.