The Vanished Ones

You may recall that I gave Donato Carrisi's debut, The Whisperer, a perfect score a few years ago. Dubbed the Italian literary thriller phenomenon, I have always remained on the lookout for anything else written by Carrisi and I've bought everything he has released thus far. Read the first one, The Lost Girls of Rome, and The Hunter of the Dark in French, so I got the French translation for this novel as well. As a sequel to The Whisperer, The Vanished Ones was the perfect book to bring with me on my Central American adventure. And I wasn't disapointed!

Oddly enough, although Donato Carrisi is a bestselling author in various countries, he remains virtually unknown in the USA. As is often the case, English language publishers have a tendency to be far behind the rest of the world when it comes to international bestsellers. One only has to look at Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy, which became a worldwide literary phenomenon before it was even translated into English.

Here's the blurb:

We call them the sleepers . . .

At the elite Missing Persons bureau of the Federal Police, Mila Vasquez is tasked with finding the hundreds of lost people who vanished from their former lives. The longer they are gone, the more they are forgotten by the world.

Now they are returning.

Appearing at random and wielding devastation, they enact a horrifying pattern of murders, leaving Mila scrabbling to discover where they have come from and what they want. Yet the deeper into the case she gets, Mila begins to realise that her colleagues are hiding something from her - something which will jeopardise everything . . .

Set in the world of Carrisi's record-breaking debut, The Whisperer, The Vanished Ones is intelligent, thrilling and incredibly compelling.

As was the case with his previous novels, the action occurs somewhere in Italy. And yet, you don't really get the feeling that that the setting is indeed Italian. The Vanished Ones has an international feel to it and the story could have taken place anywhere in the Western world. As is usually his wont, a variety of sources were used by Donato Carrisi for this literary work, chief among them criminology and forensic psychiatry manuals, as well as several FBI papers regarding serial killers and violent crimes. Many true cases, finalized or ongoing, inspired a number of those found within the pages of the novel. With his homework done properly, Carrisi's novel has an unmistakable genuine feel to it. In addition, he interviewed lots of police officers, private detectives, journalists, and family members of people who have decided to disappear and get off the grid. A correspondence between the author and an anonymous fan of The Whisperer who elected to erase his life from the records and start anew was also a source of insiration for the writing of The Vanished Ones.

Although the book is billed as a sequel to The Whisperer, other than featuring Mila Vasquez the tale has very little to do with the events of its predecessor. As such, I was a bit disappointed, for I really thought that The Vanished Ones was a direct sequel. But the link between the two books wasn't revealed until almost the very end and when it does it's mind-blowing. Hence, give it time and you'll be rewarded.

Not surprisingly, the characterization is once again top notch. Mila Vasquez, who specialized in child kidnapping earlier in her career, was deeply scarred by the events featured in The Whisperer. Since her transfer to the Missing Persons bureau of the Federal Police, she found it easier to get on with her life. With her investigation at a dead end, she approaches Simon Berish for aid. A pariah within the police forces for a crime he did not commit, he is an interrogation expert and an anthropologist who will use his expertise to help the investigation progress. But the more they unveil, the more they realize that they might be in over their heads. And that their superiors might actually be working against them. The narrative is driven by both Simon and Mila's points of view. As disparate as it gets, seeing the tale unfold through both of their perspectives makes for a great reading experience.

Like The Whisperer, this sequel is as engrossing as it is disturbing. Indeed, Donato Carrisi's The Vanished Ones is another complex, multilayered thriller that stays with you long after you've reached the last page. It may lack the emotional impact of certain sequences from its predecessor, yet it's another clever work with plots and subplots forming a chilling tapestry, all of which culminating toward an ending that will knock your socks off. The last scene, especially, is quite terrifying and makes it impossible not to line up for the third installment, whenever it gets published. Throughout, there is Carrisi's habitual thought-provoking theme underlying the entire book: The true essence of evil. Does it exist within all of us, latent and just waiting to be released?

In the end, this perturbing work is everything a thriller is meant to be. But unlike The Whisperer, which was awesome from the get-go and never let up, The Vanished Ones takes a while to get going. Still, it was a worthy sequel and the perfect set-up book for what will follow. If you are looking for compelling and disturbing books delving into psychology that stay with you long after you have finished reading them, give Donato Carrisi a shot as soon as humanly possible!

The final verdict: 8/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe

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