Vanishing Point is the fourth installment in Lisa Harris’s Nikki Boyd Files series, and, while the story stands reasonably well on its own, readers are likely to get the most out of it if the series is read in order. The chronology might be a bit difficult to figure out, as this story begins several years before the events of the first book take place and then jumps to present-day. At least, that’s how I interpreted things, and, as a first time reader of Ms. Harris’s work, I followed the story without too much trouble, although I was a little confused about a few small details as to the characters and their relationships to one another.
Garrett Addison has only been working for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation for a few days when he’s called out to investigate a grizzly murder. The body of a teenaged girl has been discovered, and investigators believe her death is another in a string of similar crimes with one thing in common: a photograph of the victim is left beside her body. So far, no clues have been found, and Garrett and his fellow agents are desperate for a lead. To this end, they request help from the FBI, and Garrett finds himself working alongside Jordan Lambert, the woman he once loved.
At first, Jordan is dismayed to discover she’ll be working with Garrett, but she’s determined to put her feelings for him on the back burner so they won’t interfere with the flow of the investigation. She knows there’s a lot at stake, and is determined to get to the bottom of things before another girl disappears. Even so, she finds it difficult to totally dismiss Garrett and the feelings she has for him. The two of them don’t discuss their past relationship, but the reader learns about it through a series of flashbacks. Basically, both Garrett and Jordan chose their careers over a romantic relationship. Jordan went off to work for the FBI while Garrett stayed in Tennessee and spent some time working for his family’s law firm before finally becoming a TBI agent. Now, Jordan and Garrett must work together to stop a ruthless killer and possibly rekindle their relationship.
Vanishing Point is somewhat different from most romantic suspense novels I’ve read. The case isn’t solved quickly; in fact, the story spans about a decade during which Garrett gives up his job as an agent and resumes working as a lawyer before returning as a TBI consultant when a seventh girl disappears under circumstances reminiscent of that first case that went cold. In some ways, it was nice not to have everything wrapped up in a matter of months, but Ms. Harris wasn’t able to sustain enough momentum in the story to keep me invested. I wanted Garrett and Jordan to learn the identity of the killer, admit their feelings for one another, and live happily ever after; and while all those things do eventually come to pass, the pay-off was a long time coming.
Both Jordan and Garrett were really hard for me to identify with, mostly because they feel more like cookie-cutter cutouts than actual people. The author provides each of them with a bit of a backstory, but the details are pretty sketchy. I found myself questioning their motivations time and time again, and, in the end, I grew frustrated with all the things I didn’t understand about what made them tick. They’re both hardworking and religious, but I can’t tell you much more beyond that. There’s nothing about either one that really stood out for me.
Their romance is also problematic. The author tells us over and over again that Jordan and Garrett love each other, but she doesn’t show us much to actually convince us it’s true. There’s altogether too much telling and not enough showing in this area of the plot. Absolutely no chemistry exists between them, and this made it hard for me to buy into Ms. Harris’s assertions that these two are meant to be.
The series is called The Nikki Boyd Files, but Nikki Boyd only exists on the periphery here. Her sister is one of the first victims of the serial killer, and it seems her disappearance is what prompted Nikki to enter the police force. I suppose readers of the previous novels might find this interesting, but it didn’t mean much to me. When the story enters the present-day, Nikki is part of the task force that eventually brings the killer to justice, something I found incredibly unrealistic. This is the person responsible for her younger sister’s death, and I struggled to believe Nikki’s superiors would really allow her to be a part of the investigation. Surely that would be a huge conflict of interest for her.
It’s important to point out that Vanishing Point is an inspirational romance. Faith plays a huge role in the lives of almost all of the characters, and, as someone who doesn’t identify as Christian, I found this aspect of the story quite difficult to relate to. There’s a lot of praying to and discussion of God, and I was tempted to skim through those passages. I recognize this will work for some readers, but it’s not my cup of tea.
When the identity of the killer was finally revealed, I will admit to being pleasantly surprised. I’m often good at figuring mysteries out before I’m supposed to, but Ms. Harris managed to keep me guessing until the very end. I just wish the rest of the story had proven as thrilling as the conclusion.
If you’ve enjoyed Ms. Harris’s previous works, Vanishing Point might work better for you than it did for me. I tend to enjoy romantic suspense with a lot more heat and a more believable romance.