2021 Reading Challenge

2021 Reading Challenge
Jill Elizabeth has read 3 books toward her goal of 245 books.
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Book Reviews: The Vanishing Season and No Mercy by Joanna Schaffhausen (The Ellery Hathaway Series)

Today I’m beyond pleased to introduce you to the amazing – and DARK – world of Ellery Hathaway, a survivor of a horrific abduction as a teenager who becomes a cop and determined to save others from similar horrors. This review covers the first two books. The eagerly-awaited third-in-series (All the Best Lies) will be reviewed next month so be sure to check back! Enjoy… The books offer a rough ride but are well worth it!

The Vanishing Season
What a fantastic find this series was! This is not a story for the faint of heart. Ellery is a survivor of a horrific abduction/rape/torture that occurred when she was fourteen. After years of dealing with what happened, she is living an anonymous life (or so she thinks) as a cop in a small town far from the site of her trauma. But the past has a way of catching up with all of us, and unfortunately for Ellery, she’s no exception…

I loved this first book – Ellery is a dark, damaged protagonist but striding through the darkness with her is surprisingly enlightening…

The character development here was first-rate. As is typical in serial killer/cop thrillers, everyone is lying through their teeth and hiding something (if not many somethings). This layering of secrets is altogether common in the genre – what is not is the delicate way that Schaffhausen teases out truths as the novel progresses. She doesn’t throw in red herrings or extraneous details; every detail is chosen carefully and revealed at just the right moment to heighten the tension and keep the reader engaged.

This was a rough read at times, but Ellery’s survival (past, present, and future) makes for a fascinating read and I definitely cannot wait to dive into book two!

No Mercy
The second-in-series was every bit as engaging as the first. The topic is, once again, violence against women – this time, focusing on rape. I usually won’t pick up a story if I know that is the underlying conflict in the book. It’s a storyline that I find haunting and usually one I avoid at all costs. I really enjoyed the way Schaffhausen addressed the violence against Ellery as a child in the first book though, finding it to be cautious and careful and avoiding of the type of salacious details that seem to be slapped into so many narratives dealing with sexual violence. It felt like she realized she didn’t have to be gory or gruesome to make the story horrific – it already was, and readers would be able to fill in the blanks on their own. I can and I did, and this delicate touch of trauma is what led me to think I could try to read this one. I’m glad I trusted my instincts, as I found this an equally powerful narrative and a great development in Ellery’s story.

I am impressed with the way Schaffhausen tackles violence against women and children. It seems every thriller has to have at least one obligatory female victim, but in these books she manages to give her victims more personhood than many do. Her characters are solidly three-dimensional, full of complexities, quirks, and the all-too-human shortcomings that plague real people – as opposed to the idealized characters too often appearing in thrillers, in which the women flail about waiting for men to save/hurt/destroy them… None of that for Schaffhausen. Her victims are full of vinegar, in the best possible way, living with the damage that’s been done to them to the best of their ability and surviving the worst the world can throw at them. In no one is this predilection for survival more evident than her protagonist, Ellery Hathaway. I really enjoy seeing how Ellery’s mind works – it’s a peek behind the curtain at the steely backbone that keeps someone going despite (because of?) the trauma they’ve had to live with, and it’s fascinating.

I’m thoroughly enjoying learning more about her past and watching her detective skills develop into her future, and can’t wait to see what book three brings!

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for my review copies.

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