Book Review: Vanish in Plain Sight by Marta Perry

Genres: Adult fiction, mystery.

Since she was a little girl, Marisa Angelo has been haunted by the image of her mother walking away, suitcase in hand, to return to her Amish roots.

Marisa and her “Englischer” father never saw or heard from her again. Now Marisa has received a shocking call from police. Her mother’s bloodstained suitcase was found hidden inside the wall of a Pennsylvania Dutch farmhouse.

Desperate for answers, Marisa heads to Lancaster County. But no one—not the police or Marisa’s tight-lipped Amish relatives—can explain what happened to her mother.

I think many people are fascinated by the Amish community because even though we know many cultures are completely different to ours, the Amish community live so close to our influences and yet manage to avoid them, and so we are not as indifferent and detached as we might be. Even though I disagree with many of their religious (and other) beliefs, you cannot deny that if there was an apocalypse, they’d do much better than many of us would. Can you make your own clothes? Provide food for yourself? I know I’d find it difficult but it’s an everyday occurrence for the Amish community. I look at them with a sense of awe, in a way.

I think this is one of the reasons why mystery/crime novels featuring the Amish community are so interesting. It’s a contraction almost. In this particular book, the community was presently differently – less strict and formal than what I’ve seen in documentaries, and it was fascinating seeing a different side. The author has Pennsylvania Dutch heritage and so I had no reason to question her portrayal although, I have to say, I did at times because she had a very different take on banning, for example, than what I’ve read/heard before. However, I particularly enjoyed how religion was not at the centre of the plot as “religious” will often be used as a synonym for “crazy”.

Now, onto the mystery. I thought it was very well thought out and it kept me guessing the whole way through. It felt very real and not overly dramatic. The premise is that Marisa’s mother disappeared when Marisa was 5-years-old and a suitcase stained with her blood is discovered years later. Marisa takes it upon herself to find out what happened to her mother – has she been murdered or did she really just walk way?

I’m giving this novel a 3.5 (inbeween “liked it” and “really liked it”). I would have given it a 4 except that I was not completely satisfied with the ending and the “reveal”. I felt that it wasn’t powerful enough and left me feeling confused. I believe it would have been more effective if it had been tied together better. Nonetheless, the book held its own and every character had their own clear personality and history.

I had the advantage of reading this on my Kindle. This meant that I was able to use the search function to find and read back clues that I missed at the time, which was very interesting! I’ve always wanted to do that when reading a paperback thriller/crime/mystery/suspense novel but it’s a lot harder to look for a particular name when you have to flick through every page. I think e-readers are perfect for these types of novels.

Overall, I wouldn’t say it’s the best mystery novel I’ve read or “oh you just have to read this”, but I enjoyed it for what it was and would be interested in reading the first book in the Amish Suspense series, Murder in Plain Sight.

This book was obtained as an eGalley from the Harlequin.

You may also like: Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult
My Rating: ★★★½