Thursday, September 13, 2007

Mystery Book Review: Page One Vanished by Nancy Barr

Mysterious ReviewsMysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, has written our review of Page One: Vanished by Nancy Barr. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.Page One: Vanished by Nancy Barr

Page One: Vanished by
A Robin Hamilton Mystery

Arbutus Press (Trade Paperback)
ISBN-10: 1-933926-16-3 (1933926163)
ISBN-13: 978-1-933926-16-2 (9781933926162)
Publication Date: May 2007
List Price: $16.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): While browsing through an eclectic used bookstore in Copper Harbor, , Robin Hamilton, vacationing newspaper reporter, spies a dusty old scrapbook with a cover photo of a young girl with golden brown eyes. The label reads Mary Jo Quinn – 1960-1974. Inside, newspaper clippings from regional newspapers cover Mary Jo’s sudden disappearance on her last day of school in 1974. Robin’s journalist instincts come alive and she starts asking questions about the scrapbook and the girl whose body was never found.

Then Robin’s friend Charlie Baker, an Escanaba city cop, mentions a girl who disappeared from Ishpeming in ’79 – just vanished. More questions by Robin produce similar news stories, first from Robin’s newspaper editor and then from her father — about two more teenage girls, one missing from Manistique and another from Kingsford —both vanished without a clue or body ever found.

Now Robin has the scent and begs her editor for time and an expense account to pursue clues and a news story. The hunt takes Robin across the length and breadth of the and into her own recent and distant past, tracking the fates of five unfortunate girls over a span of 30 years.

The girls remain hidden—the mystery itself out of sight—until Robin Hamilton encounter the hideous truth.

Review: Nancy Barr's second Robin Hamilton mystery, Page One: Vanished, opens with the small town reporter finding a scrapbook in a used bookstore that prompts her to investigate the disappearance of a young girl over 30 years ago.

While discussing the scrapbook with a friend, she learns another girl disappeared in the same general area, though many years later. As she continues to pursue her story, she discovers several teenaged girls had disappeared without a trace over a three decade period. But the only thing they apparently had in common was their interest in the arts: music, painting, and the like. When another girl vanishes, Robin is convinced it's related to the disappearance of all the others, and is determined to find out who is responsible.

Certainly a great appeal of this series is the setting. Both the first book in this series and this one are set in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. There are no large cities in this sparsely populated region, just small towns widely separated. As a reporter for a local newspaper, she doesn't have access to all of the resources a large city daily would have, and her low-tech pursuit for the truth is exciting to follow. In the end, Barr puts an unexpected twist on the highly foreshadowed conclusion making it much more intriguing than it otherwise would have been.

At over 300 pages, Page One: Vanished is far too long for the story being told. True, Robin has a lot of ground to cover during her investigation, but it isn't strictly necessary to relate every detail of every trip she takes as she travels from one town to the next. And she does a lot of traveling. It's interesting at first, but rapidly gets repetitive

Robin Hamilton is one small town investigative reporter that is worth getting to know. It's not essential to read the first two books in order, but doing so helps the reader understand some of her development as a character here. One can look forward to a third book in the series: a hint to its storyline is given in the final paragraphs of Page One: Vanished.

Special thanks to Arbutus Press for providing a copy of Page One: Vanished for this review.

Review Copyright © 2007 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved.

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