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Vanishing Point by Carol Smith

Vanishing Point

by Carol Smith

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This book started out really well - it was well-plotted, fast-paced and kept me guessing. Unfortunately the ending was such an anticlimax I was disappointed. Carol Smith builds up the suspense very well but the conclusion just falls flat in my opinion. So many ends are left untied - we don't get to know how Chad/Charles/etc reacts to being found out, why he was 'devil's spawn' or why Aidan and the twins seem to be so unavoidably drawn towards his bad example. In fact the whole Aidan subplot felt like an afterthought thrown in to add 'excitement' as if the book just had to have a murder or two to satisfy the publisher. I will try other books by Carol Smith, as her writing style is very readable but I think the ending of this book was far too rushed. ( )
  Twynnie | Jul 11, 2009 |
Every once in a while a news story turns up about a man who had been caught out leading a double life. The wives involved often had no clue that her one and only was also the one and only of someone else. Each time we’re amazed that the guy could keep things straight and that the women remained completely fooled. Didn’t he ever call one kid by another’s name? Didn’t he ever mix up birthdays? I guess not. I like to think that I could never be duped by such a man.

In this novel, the guy is leading a near triple life and has past lives ready to cascade over and flatten everything. The first thread comes from Frankie’s tale. She met Chad when she was in a youth detention center for burning down her step father’s house. It’s implied step-dad was sexually assaulting her, but she never states that outright. Chad is charming, gorgeous and a sociopath. He flatters and woos her to engineer what she thinks will be their escape, but ends with Chad ending up accidentally dead in his own fire. Stupidly, Frankie takes the blame and gets sent up for murder. Then, decades later while out on an errand for the commune she now belongs to, she sees Chad on the train. She snaps and does everything she can to track him down, eventually finding him.

But it is not Chad. It is Aiden, Chad’s son via his ex-wife Cassie. Only now he goes by Charles. After 20 years of marriage to Cassie, Charles tells her about his ongoing affair. Now he's married to Pippa and has infant twins. Pippa has always wondered why Cassie could give him up so meekly, but she soon realizes why. Charles is constantly away from home and the twins are a handful (baby sociopaths are part of Charles's legacy). Pippa’s business begins to suffer as does she under the strain. She is mystified when the police show up and tell her Charles has been arrested on unspecified charges. Shit has hit the fan.

Charles claims business as his reason for extended travel. What he’s really doing is cultivating a relationship with Jenny, a single mother trying to get a restaurant off the ground. Now he’s known as Clive. He’s charming, sexy and Jenny rapidly falls in love with him and maintains a fierce devotion despite his extended absences. Luckily she’s got a good friend who doesn’t quite trust Clive. One day, she sees him in the audience at Wimbledon when he’s supposed to be at Corfu for a rugby match. Shit has hit the fan.

In the background is a woman named Christina living in Paris. She is an ex-supermodel and embodies all that is ugly about ignorant, indulged beauties gone past their sell-by dates. She is a shrew living as one man’s mistress while planning a marriage to another. The mansion’s staff hates her and so do we. A complication to her pending nuptials is the tiny fact that she might already be married. To a guy she met in Rio named Cal. She and Cal were the it couple for a while and lived the high life together for 18 months when he up and vanished without a trace. Instead of her desperation groom, she opens the door to Cal on her wedding day. Shit has hit the fan.

The portraits of the women in Chad’s life are great. Cassie being the most likeable because she’s the only one who wreaks any kind of havoc on the guy. First letting him go so quietly and demanding he marry Pippa, something we understand he wouldn’t have done if given a choice. Then selling off the London flat she so conveniently let him use. Detachment is the one thing he cannot stand, unless it is him doing the detaching.

I do wish that we’d gotten his perspective on things. There were glimmers, here and there where we were given some shreds, but not enough to really hate the guy. If we’d had some narrative about him the same way we had it about his women, the emotions would have boiled over. As it was, they only simmered. And the ending is truncated as well. We see him arrested and the women’s lives start to turn for the better, but we never see him suffer. We never get his outrage and anger. We need that payoff by now and without it the novel suffers instead. ( )
  Bookmarque | Apr 30, 2008 |
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When Frankie, mid-40s, sees in a passing train the unforgettable face of her long-lost love, she turns straight round and goes after him. For she, more than anyone, knows he is dead; she was there when it happened, she attended the inquest and later served a prison sentence for his manslaughter.… (more)

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