Latest review: The Vanishing Year by Kate Moretti

By Ekta R. Garg

September 28, 2016

Genre: Psychological thriller

Rated: Bypass it

A woman living a privileged life runs into people from her past and gets a rude re-introduction to darker memories. When strange events begin occurring, the woman must try to figure out how her past fits into what’s happening in her life now. Clearly someone is out to hurt or even kill her. But why? And how will she put an end to it? Author Kate Moretti offers readers this plot in the somewhat compelling but ultimately forced novel The Vanishing Year.

Zoe Whittaker seems to have it all: a Wall Street tycoon husband, access to the elite of New York City’s social scene, and a fancy home. Unlike her husband, Henry, Zoe wasn’t born into money but she’s worked hard and fast to learn how to manage it. She’s at the head of CARE, an organization that gathers resources for orphans. The charity means a lot to Zoe because at one time she herself was an orphan.

Of course, back then there was no Zoe. Just someone with a different name and a different life. A vastly different life. But Zoe can’t let anyone know that. Until now.

On the night of one of CARE’s biggest fundraisers Zoe runs into a college roommate, someone with a penchant for gossip and the sheer will to pass it along. Zoe tries to brush off the woman by saying she must be mistaken, but running into her rattles Zoe. She’s worked so hard for five years to forget everything about her sordid past, and here it is standing in an evening gown and declaring in a loud voice that Zoe is actually someone named Hilary Lawlor.

It doesn’t help that lately Zoe has been thinking about her birth mother. She has a name and not much else, but she wishes she could have some connection to the woman. When the journalist covering the CARE event shares that he used to report on foster children reuniting with their birth parents, Zoe takes him up on his offer to help her. What could be so bad about getting information about her past?

As it turns out, a lot. Soon after Zoe and the reporter, Cash, start digging for information, strange events begin happening. Someone tries to run over Zoe as she’s getting ready to cross the street. Then she comes home to discover someone has broken into her fancy Tribeca apartment. And lately Henry’s behavior has become even stranger than usual.

Zoe suspects an affair, but why? When he comes home from the office, he’s full of praises and expensive gifts. Why would he need to stray from their new marriage? Nothing makes sense, but the more Zoe digs the more she realizes she’ll have to allow her past to collide with her present if she’s going to find any peace again.

Author Kate Moretti’s book will certainly keep readers engaged, if only to find out what Zoe’s past life is all about and how it intersects with the new life she’s built. Unfortunately, the “thriller” portion of the book ends there. Some authors take two weak storylines and cram them into one book. Moretti has the opposite problem: she has two strong, potentially independent, storylines and chose to force them together. The result is a book that feels like it’s in conflict with itself.

Zoe’s past is as tragic as the hints provided throughout the early portions of the novel. The details, however, are shared in a rush, as if in a breathless whisper so the rest of the book can proceed. When Zoe starts examining the cracks that have appeared in her present life, the narrative wants readers to believe that the past fits in seamlessly. It feels more like those past details are being forced, all for dramatic effect, and the final reveal will have some readers scratching their heads. At some point the secrets of Zoe’s present feel a little far-fetched, contrived even, and readers will certainly guess some of them pages before Zoe does.

The intent was no doubt on the mark, but the book fails to hit it. I recommend readers Bypass The Vanishing Year.

(I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

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