3 out of 4 stars
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Vanished is the first book of a series entitled Void, written by Tayma Tameem. The novel dives into the frightful and troublesome theme of a missing child and the terrible consequences it entails.
Ryan and Sally Gallager are a middle-class couple like millions of others in America. They have a four-year-old daughter, Jessica, and a baby boy, AJ. At the beginning of the story, readers learn that Ryan had lost his job at a major pharmaceutical research company and kept this from his wife, an exhausted stay-at-home mom. To make things worse, AJ Gallager disappears from his crib on the night of his first birthday party. A skillful detective named Alan Banks gets assigned to the case, and he is as experienced and persistent as they come. Baker is determined to find out what happened to the baby boy. As is often the case with this type of crime, everyone is a suspect, relatives included. The question then becomes if this seemingly perfect family could be hiding something.
The book has two strengths: the puzzle (what happened to AJ) and the well-developed characters. What I liked the most about this story was its mysterious atmosphere, especially in the first half of the book. I enjoyed the way the investigation revealed a couple of shady secrets, but I can’t give away spoilers! I also liked the way the author developed both protagonists. Ryan and Sally are nuanced and multilayered, and so is Alan Banks, the detective. There was more than enough backstory to help readers understand their motivations, which I appreciated. Ryan’s suffering and ambivalence are heartbreaking, and the detective’s relentless pursuit of clues was also a noteworthy positive. I could relate to them, and it kept me invested in the story.
On the other hand, after the first half of the book, the story starts to drag a bit. From a certain point, after a couple of secrets get revealed, I found it less pleasurable to read. I felt it climaxed a bit early, and the remainder of the book failed to keep up the tension of the first chapters. The ending was a bit frustrating, too.
In closing, I felt the positives outweighed the negatives, so I decided to rate it 3 out of 4 stars. I’m subtracting a star due to the negatives previously mentioned, especially the unbalanced story arc. Still, it was an entertaining read, and if you enjoy a mixture of crime, mystery, and drama, you will surely enjoy it.
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