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by Val McDermid, read by Antonia Beamish
Whole Story Audio Books, September 2012
Unabridged pages
25.52 GBP
ISBN: 1471213382

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

You'll have to have been living in a cave for the past few years if you're a UK resident and don't pick up on the popular culture references in Val McDermid's THE VANISHING POINT. Working class girl goes on reality TV show, spends a lot of time showing how thick she is, brings the wrath of the nation down on her head with a racist comment, lives her life on the front pages of the tabloids, makes an ill-judged marriage, has a child, is diagnosed with cancer and dies as she has lived in the public eye.

Stephanie Harker is a ghost writer. Much above her better judgement, she allows her pushy agent to persuade her to meet said reality TV star Scarlett Higgins who wants to tell her story. But Stephanie is the focus of the book's edge-of-the-seat opening. She's been taken into a cubicle for a security scan at O'Hare Airport in Chicago as she sees a uniformed man lead her five-year-old son Jimmy away.

The beginning of the book is vintage McDermid, with bags of tension and energetic storytelling. But even though THE VANISHING POINT kept me hooked all through, I couldn't help thinking that the narrative device Stephanie telling her story to an FBI agent is a tad creaky. If I'd been that agent, it would have been a distinct case of "just the facts, ma'am!" as the man used to say!

Much of the book takes place in the chaotic world of Scarlett Higgins. McDermid attempts and largely succeeds in giving the character some complex layers. Stephanie herself makes a couple of odd life decisions which make her rather difficult to warm to. But she's tenacious and a loyal friend. And she's voiced perfectly by Antonia Beamish, who moves effortlessly between Stephanie's cheery received pronunciation, Scarlett's no-nonsense Yorkshire and a raft of gruff Americans.

When it comes to the book's ending, this really is a case of 'your mileage may vary.' I'd been warned (without spoilers) that it was odd, so I spent some times concocting even more implausible possibilities in my head and one of them was right! It IS an off-the-wall ending, albeit well-written, so you may find yourself in eye-rolling mode. But it's been a thrilling ride to get there.

Sharon Wheeler is a UK-based journalist, writer and lecturer.

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, March 2013

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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