The Vanishing Season

The Vanishing Season

Book - 2017 | First edition.
Average Rating:
Rate this:

Winner of the Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Competition, Joanna Schaffhausen's accomplished debut The Vanishing Season will grip readers from the opening page to the stunning conclusion.

Ellery Hathaway knows a thing or two about serial killers, but not through her police training. She's an officer in sleepy Woodbury, MA, where a bicycle theft still makes the newspapers. No one there knows she was once victim number seventeen in the grisly story of serial killer Francis Michael Coben. The only one who lived.

When three people disappear from her town in three years--all around her birthday--Ellery fears someone knows her secret. Someone very dangerous. Her superiors dismiss her concerns, but Ellery knows the vanishing season is coming and anyone could be next. She contacts the one man she knows will believe her: the FBI agent who saved her from a killer all those years ago.

Agent Reed Markham made his name and fame on the back of the Coben case, but his fortunes have since turned. His marriage is in shambles, his bosses think he's washed up, and worst of all, he blew a major investigation. When Ellery calls him, he can't help but wonder: sure, he rescued her, but was she ever truly saved? His greatest triumph is Ellery's waking nightmare, and now both of them are about to be sucked into the past, back to the case that made them...with a killer who can't letgo.

Publisher: New York : Minotaur Books, 2017.
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9781250126047
Branch Call Number: FIC SCHAF
Characteristics: viii, 274 pages ; 25 cm.


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
Nov 21, 2019

The Vanishing Season is a fine first novel. The plot held my attention throughout and I read right through it. The book’s weak point was character development. The characters were sufficient to keep the thrilling plot moving along, but there weren’t many who were easy to connect with. I look forward to more by this author. She’s off to a good start.

Apr 30, 2019

Great first novel if not always believable.

Jan 17, 2019

A bit too graphic and gruesome for my taste. Kristi & Abby Tabby

Dec 21, 2018

Good thriller. Kept my attention but I figured out the killer and did not find the ending to be such a twist.

Oct 12, 2018

Not a bad book, there is for sure a few twists and worth the read but I probably wouldn't read it again.

Sep 29, 2018

This book is original and very well written. It kept me up last night. I'm glad to see she has another book coming out next year.

JenniferG_OshLib Jun 11, 2018

While reading this book, I often thought about Thomas Harris's "Silence of the Lambs." It's not as sinister, but it definitely recreated the nervous feeling I got when reading that book. There are a few plot holes here and there (would it really have been that hard to track down Ellery when she only changed her first name?), but I was willing to let those go. The pacing was strong and the tension was certainly present.

May 28, 2018

Received an award for First Novel. Easy to see why. It builds to a satisfying climax with interesting characters - flawed but not silly. The protagonist, a police officer, was abducted 10 years ago when she was 14, and rescued but not before being tortured. She believes another murderer is active but can't get fellow officers to believe her.

May 22, 2018

A big disappointment. Unappealing characters, unbelievable and plodding plot and a completely contrived denouement. I guessed who the villain was long before the end, but only because I asked myself who would make least sense to be that person. And voila! I am growing very tired of these utterly implausible storylines and characters.

Feb 01, 2018

Ellery Hathaway is the only survivor of the notorious serial killer, Frances Michael Coben. She was to be victim 17, but FBI agent Reed Markham swept in to rescue her from the fetid, locked closet where she had been kept, the closet where the unlucky 16 who didn’t survive had tried to claw their way out. No wonder she keeps the closets in her house nailed shut. Savor that image for a minute. Fourteen years later and she nails shut her closet doors.
But now, Ellery is damned sure an almost- copy-cat killer is at work. For the past three years someone has disappeared around her birthday. She knows another serial killer is at work but no one at her job will believe her since no bodies have been found and they all have reasons why they could be missing. This is extremely frustrating because Ellie is a police officer in the small town of Woodbury, MA. And she knows from serial killers. Not even her lover, the police chief takes her seriously.
Ellery is sure she could convince the police chief, but that would mean giving up a few of her secrets, such as her real name and the fact that she was the seventeenth victim. She is also holding back real evidence.
Instead she calls FBI S/A Reed Markham in to help her. He’s at a new low, even though for years he found fame and fortune on the back of his rescue of Ellery. Ellery does not resent this, as she herself has managed to make some good money from her ordeal.
I found Ellery to be fascinating. She was fourteen when she was taken, but has managed to find and lead an almost normal life. She is really not one to completely admire, a welcome change with female protagonists.
She is rabid about keeping her past hidden from everyone, even when it might help in establishing her case. She has turned into a bit of a user, not above using her sexual charms to advance her cause. She is also a loner with few friends. No man has ever been inside her house.
S/A Markham is a mess, struggling to reach the surface and begin again in both his professional and personal life. He is aghast at one point to realize he may not have really rescued Ellery and must try to work through his mistrust of her.
The academy award for best supporting actor goes to Bump, Ellery’s basset hound. Oh wait, I’m mixing my media. Oops doing it again. Anyway the dog is an award winner.
The Vanishing Season is deftly plotted. It begins with a chilling prologue that stays with the reader and continues the thrills with a cold logic. The serial killer who took Ellery was one of the most chilling I’ve come across. I think by this time it must be hard for authors to be original in mining the serial killer plot. Joanna Schaffhausen has succeeded admirably with both of her killers and her story.
This is Schaffhausen’s first book as she was the award winner for the Minotaur/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Competition. I hope she continues to find success as she is off to a fine start. I wonder though, if this is the beginning of a series, and if so, whose series, Ellery or S/A Markham?

View All Comments

Age Suitability

Add Age Suitability

There are no age suitabilities for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at APL

To Top