Katia Lief has been quietly but steadily building a loyal following with her You Are Next series of mysteries featuring Karin Schaeffer, an ex-cop who has transferred her skill set to her private investigation business. VANISHING GIRLS, as with the first two books in the series, establishes Schaeffer as the spiritual heiress of Nancy Drew; Schaeffer, with her detective husband Mac and preschool-age son Ben, is Nancy, all grown up and having it all. If you think that’s one of my highest compliments, you’re right.
"If you have yet to experience the You Are Next series and are a fan of mystery series fiction, please jump on this train now. Lief has created a credible and competent heroine whose interior vulnerabilities are balanced by a competent and protective exterior."
VANISHING GIRLS begins with Schaeffer taking a call and covering for her flu-infected husband, a situation that leads her to a grim and grisly tableau. Two females have been discovered late on a Sunday night on a Brooklyn street. One is an 11-year-old girl, the apparent victim of a hit-and-run driver. Not that this should happen to any child, but the girl simply does not belong there. She is the daughter of wealthy parents, who, as it turns out, are suddenly off the radar. The other victim, believed to be a young prostitute, appears to be the latest victim of a serial killer who has eluded the NYPD for years.
The failure to capture the Working Girl Killer, as the murderer has come to be called, haunts Billy Staples, an NYPD homicide detective who is Hank’s closest friend. Billy, still reeling from a betrayal that almost cost him his life and left him with a permanent injury, is doggedly determined to continue the investigation that he has been obsessed with for over a year, even as he experiences debilitating flashbacks that leave him open and vulnerable. Schaeffer is determined to help in any way she can. Suddenly, though, the case takes an extremely personal turn that affects her deeply and emotionally. Schaeffer has already lost everything she once had in a series of violent tragedies, and now it seems as if history is about to repeat itself.
Someway, somehow, Schaeffer will prevent that from happening and protect those she loves. But how can she when the evidence trail seems to indicate that she is being betrayed by those for whom she cares most? The answer will surprise and shock. By the end of the book, much has changed, setting up a number of potential storylines for future novels in the series.
If you have yet to experience the You Are Next series and are a fan of mystery series fiction, please jump on this train now. Lief has created a credible and competent heroine whose interior vulnerabilities are balanced by a competent and protective exterior. And while VANISHING GIRLS is complete in itself, the volume also includes a preview of the next offering in the series, which promises to be at least as good as the current one. As mystery fiction undergoes what appears to be yet another renaissance, Lief is one of the authors at the front of the pack.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on September 28, 2012