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Book Author: Joanna Schaffhausen

EVERY WAKING HOUR by Joanna Schaffhausen: Book Review

It is, as my son Rich used to say when he was young, deja vu all over again for Ellery Hathaway.

Ellery is the survivor of a brutal kidnapping that occurred when she was a teenager, nearly two decades ago.  The multiple cuttings on her arms are the visible reminders of the physical torture Francis Coben subjected her to; the multiple rapes she suffered are not outwardly visible but are still ever-present in her mind.

As far as is known, Ellery is the only survivor out of the more than sixteen girls Coben kidnapped.   That’s because FBI Agent Reed Markham rescued her from a locked closet in Coben’s apartment, and the survivor and the agent have had an on again/off again relationship in recent years.  At the moment it is definitely in the on mode, as they are having a tentative romantic relationship that naturally brings up multiple issues for Ellery.

Now they are spending the afternoon together in Boston with Tula, Reed’s young daughter, when they hear a frightened woman’s scream.  “Help!  She’s gone!  Someone, please help me!”  Nothing could be more terrifying to both Ellery and Reed, bringing back as it does the horrific event that brought them together.

Twelve-year-old Chloe Lockhart was with her nanny Mimi when she asked for permission to walk a few yards away from the bench where both were sitting in order to buy a pretzel.  Mimi tells Ellery and Reed that she is never supposed to let Chloe out of her sight, but after the girl’s repeated requests the nanny relented.  But Chloe hasn’t returned and isn’t answering her cell phone.

Are Chloe’s parents simply unusually watchful or are they obsessively over-protective?  Why are there bars on the windows of their palatial home?  Why can’t their twelve-year-old daughter go anywhere without her nanny?

Now a rookie police detective with the Boston Police Department, Ellery tells Mimi to wait with Reed and his daughter while she scours the area for Chloe.  As she pauses at an intersection, she hears a strange sound coming from an adjacent trash can.  On the top of the garbage dumped inside the can there’s a cell phone, and its ringtone is Porky Pig’s famous line, “That’s all, folks.”  The caller ID bears the name “Mimi.”

In addition to the search for the missing girl, Ellery and Reed are dealing with personal issues.  His ex-wife is thinking of moving out of state with her lover, taking Tula with her.  She cites Reed’s lack of a predictable schedule in seeing his daughter and his dangerous job as her reasons, saying she is willing to fight him in court to change the custody agreement that gives them both equal physical custody.

Ellery, meantime, is having difficulty dealing with her undeniable attraction to Reed while at the same time dealing with memories of her abduction and its violent aftermath.

Every Waking Hour is the fourth novel in the Ellery Hathaway series.  In each book we get a deeper look into Ellery’s life and mind and see how she is coping, successfully or not, with the traumas of the past.  Joanna Schaffhausen has written another compelling mystery with a heroine you hope will at last find happiness and peace of mind.

You can read more about Joanna Schaffhausen at this website.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden Oldies, Past Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.

THE VANISHING SEASON by Joanna Schaffhausen: Book Review

In a mystery novel, it’s usually the killer or the victim who has a hidden background, a secret so traumatic that it must be kept from others at any cost.  In The Vanishing Season, police officer Ellery Hathaway was the subject of national news coverage when she was a teenager, and she is determined that no one will now connect her with that traumatic episode in her past.

Not many serious crimes take place in the small town of Woodbury, Massachusetts.  Burglaries, vandalism, shoplifting–these are the things that the eight-person force (seven men and Ellery) deal with on a daily basis.  Except that for each of the past three years, a person from Woodbury went missing during the month of July and was never seen again.

Ellery is the only officer who believes there is a pattern to these disappearances.  To everyone else including her married lover, chief of police Sam Parker, there is no case.  “People leave their lives all the time and don’t look back,” he tells her.

On the surface, Sam appears correct.  The three missing people–a college student, the town’s mail carrier, a woman with a history of drunk driving–seem to have nothing in common.  But to Ellery, who had her own nearly fatal experience of being taken from her home and almost killed, there is a connection, a relationship between these three people that she believes cost them their lives.  All she has to do is find it.

At the age of fourteen, Abigail Ellery Hathaway was abducted and held for three days by a serial killer who previously had taken, raped, and mutilated several young girls before murdering them.  It was FBI Agent Reed Markham who found Abby, hidden in a closet in the killer’s apartment, and who apprehended Francis Coben, the man who is currently serving a life sentence in a maximum security prison for his crimes.

Now using her middle name as her first name, Ellery contacts Reed in her desperation to have someone on her side as she surreptitiously investigates the missing persons case.  The two have not been in touch in more than a decade, but at the time Reed rescued Ellery he told her that if she ever needed anything she could call him.  And so she does.

Ellery Hathaway is a woman who has mostly overcome her past, although the physical scars inflicted on her by Coben are a visible daily reminder of that harrowing episode in her life.  But faced with the intransigence of the town’s police department, she decides to conduct her own off-the-books investigation, hoping that she might be in time either to find one or more of the three people who have disappeared or else to prevent another disappearance.  After all, it’s already July 2nd.

The Vanishing Season is a taut, compelling story of a woman’s fight to do what she believes is right in the face of the apathy and indifference of her fellow officers.  Ellery is flawed, fearful, and yet absolutely determined to follow her instincts and find out who is behind the disappearances in Woodbury.  She is a protagonist to admire.

You can read more about Joanna Schafflausen at this website.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden Oldies, Past Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.