Prolific Scots writer Val McDermid is back with a stand alone that will grab you from page one and keep you flipping until its surprising and eventful resolution. If you aren’t a McDermid fan by now, despite Auntie M expounding this gifts through reviews of her several series and excellent stand alones, now is the time to meet her acquaintance.

The Vanishing Point opens with UK ghost writer Stephanie Harker and her adoptive son trying to enter the US for a much-needed vacation.

The metal in Stephanie’s leg always sets off the security alarm, and she’s prepped young Jimmy to mind their luggage whilst she’s escorted to the clear cubicle to await her pat-down.

Then a kidnapper, disguised as a TSA agent, leads Jimmy away, and Stephanie’s attempts to rescue him are seen by the real TSA agents as an attempt to breach security. She’s detained over her protests and ultimately tasered, helpless to prevent Jimmy being kidnapped as they disappear into the crowded airport.

Once the situation is finally explained, valuable time has been lost, but FBI agent Vivian McKuras soon realizes this is a highly unusual situation, one heightened by the confusing first moments which have allowed a kidnapper to spirit Jimmy away. The boy’s birth mother was the reality star Scarlett, who gave Stephanie custody of her only child when she was dying of cancer, believing the writer would be the best person to provide Jimmy a stable life after her death.

Scotland Yard detective Nick Nikolaides, who knows Stephanie and her complicated background, investigates in England. Both Stephanie and Scarlett have had negative relationships with men in their pasts, and Nick and Stephanie are all too aware of the various ways Jimmy’s abduction could turn out very badly.

This compelling thriller touches every parent on a visceral level, while the possible causes for the kidnapping multiply as McDermid has Stephanie explain the back story to the FBI agent.

The reader follows the timeline of Stephanie’s relationship with Scarlett and their blossoming friendship that led to Stephanie being named as Jimmy’s legal guardian. There are enough players and possibilities for suspects to chose from as their story unfolds: the boy’s pampered, drug-addicted father’s family; a stranger after ransom from the wealthy Scarlett’s estate; or even a demented fan who might have wanted a piece of Scarlett.

When the truth of the situation is made evident, this well-plotted thriller will have you in awe of McDermid’s talents to keep readers on the edge of their seats. Her powerful and unexpected climax is nothing short of a writer’s dream, which is why McDermid recently received the Crime Writers’ Association Cartier Diamond Dagger Award for outstanding achievement in the field of crime writing.

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