Skip to main content




Karen Robards's books are heavy on romance, and her ever-expanding
bibliography is aimed front and center at women. But I must tell
you that 1) a good novel is a good novel, and VANISHED, Robards's
latest offering, is a great one; and 2) if you're passing up this
book or any of her backlisted titles because of a genre
classification, you're missing out.

VANISHED is not a romance story wrapped around a minor mystery as
an afterthought. If anything, it's the other way around. It starts
off with a terrifying vignette, an excruciating convenience store
holdup that goes from bad to worse and is, incidentally, a bit more
than it seems to be. Assistant D.A. Sarah Mason happens to be
shopping in the store at the time. She quickly finds out that she
is all there is between a little girl hiding under a display table
and certain death. The entire episode nicely sets off a chain
reaction of questions within just a few pages. Why is Mason
affected so deeply by the little girl? And why is at least one of
the responding police officers so deeply and openly hostile towards
Mason? Robards takes her time in answering, or at least in giving
full answers.

What we learn in dribs and drabs is that Lexie, Mason's
six-year-old daughter, disappeared several years ago and that Mason
has been going through the motions of life since. It's accordingly
a bit of a jolt when Mason begins receiving what appears to be
messages, subtle and otherwise, from Lexie. Robards spins these out
in a miserly fashion, somehow pulling off the neat trick of
building an expectation of immediate revelation while delivering at
a much slower pace, thus heightening the suspense to an almost
excruciating degree.

Yes, there is romance here, involving Mason in the role of sterile
cuckoo, and private investigator Jake Hogan as the longtime best
buddy who is slowly but surely developing passionate feelings.
Hogan is artfully and cleverly drawn --- even I found myself
yelling, "Kiss her already, ya big lug!" --- and when the threads
of mutual attraction between Hogan and Mason finally begin to
tighten, Robards's descriptive talents are fully and wonderfully
revealed. She does not, however, lose sight of her story or her
mystery --- and quite a mystery it is indeed.

Fans of mystery, suspense or romance who rarely venture into the
other respective genres should do so and pick up VANISHED --- and
then catch up on Robards's previous titles. Recommended.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 24, 2011

by Karen Robards

  • Publication Date: June 5, 2007
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Signet
  • ISBN-10: 045122101X
  • ISBN-13: 9780451221018