The Vanishing Season (The Collector #4) by Dot Hutchison
Published by Thomas & Mercer on May 21, 2019
my rating: ★★
Goodreads avg: 4.27 (as of 2019-05-28)
disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for review consideration. All of the opinions presented below are my own.
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.
First and foremost, I need to give my thanks to Rachel who has been with me for every step of this journey (I also reread her review of The Summer Children and realized it said everything I was trying to say below, but better). By which I mean she has put up with my endless livetexting of this godforsaken novel and my incredulity whilst reading it. Which comes across as rude, but I’m not sure I would have made it through without someone to vent to.
While writing negative reviews can be freeing in a way, I’ve been dreading writing this one. I absolutely adored Dot Hutchison’s first novel in this series. The Butterfly Garden was everything I wanted in a thriller, and I was absolutely blown away by it. I could not put it down! Shortly thereafter I read The Roses of May and while my review was glowing, my star rating slowly dropped the more thought I gave to it. The Summer Children peaked in quality a bit more, but the depth of focus given to the agents’ relationships, which many had critiqued in The Roses of May, finally began to irk me. The Vanishing Season takes it to a whole other level.
The problem with these books is that they force you to completely suspend your disbelief regarding professionalism and appropriate workplace behavior. There’s a time and a place for cutesy stuff like this, but FBI agents actively working a case ain’t it. It’s to the point where I hesitate to call this a thriller, or a mystery. While the last two books at least had some sense of danger and urgency, The Vanishing Season is honestly nothing but fanservice. The tonal shift is enough to give you whiplash.
I’m not saying that books need to mirror reality perfectly and most thrillers do require you to suspend your disbelief a bit, but it would take some serious mental gymnastics to think that a law enforcement team could actually function like this without crashing and burning, or at least getting a serious talking-to from an internal affairs department. I lost track of all the things I could not believe were happening. Agent cuddle parties. They all live next to each other! Always joking about the boy being outnumbered by LOL GIRLS (realistic but annoying). Her boss kisses her on the CHEEK? Literally everyone talks about the MC looking like an 8-year-old girl constantly and I’m seriously done with women being infantilized.
Aside from that, the excess of unnecessary detail was… overwhelming. I wish I had highlighted examples as I came across them because there were so many. In instances where a sentence or two would have conveyed a process just fine, a full page is used instead. There was so much infodumping that I just didn’t understand, and it came across as the epitome of telling instead of showing.
It sucks because between all the stuff I didn’t like, there was so much promise. The crime of the week could have been so much more interesting had it been expanded on, but it became more of a background to everyone’s personal problems. There was a really interesting exploration of realizing one had been abused that would have hit so much harder if it hadn’t been crammed together with a dozen other things. I feel like this book just tried to do everything at once and ended up shooting itself in the foot because of it. It’s a bummer because we all know Dot Hutchison is an incredible writer; The Butterfly Garden was kind of a masterpiece imo. The rest of the series was just an entirely different kind of writing.
So, unfortunately this really wasn’t for me and I can’t say I recommend it in its current state — I can only hope that some additional edits were made between the ARC and the finished copy. I guess if you’re obsessed with the characters and want to see them spend all their time goofing around or having Serious Emotional Moments together, this is the book for you. If you’re looking for an actual thriller/mystery, keep looking.