VANISHING POINT by Judith Van Gieson
A CLAIRE REYNIER MYSTERY
University of New Mexico Press, 2001
Author and Viet Nam protestor Jonathan Vail is one of the myths of New Mexico. His novel helped define a generation yet he vanished into the New Mexico desert soon after he wrote it. Now, a young graduate student Tim Sansevera approaches library archivist Claire Reynier with the news that he has found Vail's missing second journal (the first has been published to considerable acclaim.
Claire, the Park Ranger who worked the Vail case, and Sansevera agree to meet at the cave where Sansevera found the long-lost journal and a duffel bag which he'd left. Instead, Claire finds Sansevera's body and no bag. Is it murder, or simply an accident in the dangerous New Mexico hills?
Claire can't drop the case. Could Vail still be alive after all this time? If so, why hadn't he returned when draft evaders had been granted amnesty? If not, where is the body and what happened to the duffel bag. The original case is thirty years old, but somehow, she senses that Vail's disapearance and Sansevera's death are connected. Could Vail's ex-girlfriend have killed both men, or is the detective who made a living not finding Vail responsible?
Judith Van Gieson writes convincingly about the New Mexico desert and cities. Her insights of the mixed lessons of Viet Nam and the impact they had on America in the 60s and today are well thought out and interesting. The mystery itself is satisfying as Gieson adds layers of complexity, building on the original missing person case. Occasionally the novel appears over-written as Gieson tries to milk additional New Mexico details into a slim volume.
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