VANISHED IN THE NIGHT – Eileen Carr
Sacramento, California – Present Day
The last thing Sergeant Zach McKnight of the Sacramento Police Department wants is another cold case. But finding bones in the bottom of a hole on a construction site is about to change his life, and many others’. The funny thing is that the bones hadn’t been dug up; the construction workers confirmed they weren’t there the night before. Someone has obviously dug up these bones and placed them at the construction site so they would be found. Forensics soon reveals they are approximately 20 years old, and belonged to a male age 18 to 20. Old Vietnam War dog tags found with the body eventually reveal they belonged to Max Shelden, and the police intend to find out what happened to him.
When Zack arrives at Veronica Osborne’s house to tell her about Max, she was hoping to hear they had found him and he was returning. She’d been waiting all these years for him to return after he was dragged away from their house kicking and screaming to the Sierra School for Boys, where he had been sent all those years ago. His stepfather, Veronica’s father George, hated Max because he was half African-American. After finding pot in his room, George had Max taken away, never to be heard from again—he supposedly ran away from the school several months after he arrived. Veronica is sure no one will investigate Max’s death too deeply, until other people connected to him also turn up dead. Veronica’s alcoholic father appears to have fallen down the stairs in his house while drunk, but investigation reveals it was deliberate. Then a supervisor of the old school dies tied up, with vomit in her mouth, as though in an autoerotic scenario.
Until someone realizes all these people have the Sierra School for Boys in common, everything seems surreal. Zach and his partner, Frank Rodriguez, along with other investigators in the state, must combine their information and see what the common thread is between the murders—and who and why someone is killing these people.
Despite the sad and awful circumstances, Eileen Carr has written a story that is very addicting. The action is fast paced, and repartee between the characters is realistic, and the interesting characters make the story even more outstanding. We come close to understanding the problems the children of alcoholics and abusers suffer from throughout their later lives. And the sickness that hides inside one person when combined with other sick people leads to even more horrific actions. Zach and Veronica have both suffered from horrible experiences as children and have learned to cope the best way they can. Veronica’s life as an ER nurse and Zach’s life as a policeman have given their lives meaning. Not to say that their experiences don’t linger today; Veronica still covered up for her father and took the abuse he dished out her whole life before he was murdered.
It might seem as if there are a lot of secondary characters, but they really only put in short appearances. There’s Susan Tennant, who dug up Max’s bones, the bones that would force people to care and pay attention to what happened all those years ago. Susan was part of what happened to Max, and has tried ever since then to make amends; she will get her just punishment. Gary Havens was at the Sierra School for Boys all those years ago and knows what happened to Max and everyone else who was sent to that torture chamber. Lyle Burton is up for the director of CPS for the state, but he was the head of the Sierra School back then; his participating and refusing to see what was in front of his face caused misery to many. Matthew Cassell was also at the school and is now a paramedic who works closely with Veronica. Ryan Arnott worked at the Sierra School, and gets what he deserves the same as he dished it out. And last but not least is George Osborne, Max’s stepfather and Veronica’s father. His hatred of his stepson inspired him to send him away to the school, and his anger in general caused Veronica to spend a lot of time hiding from the anger then, and living with his drunken vitriol even now.
VANISHED IN THE NIGHT, while not a happy, everyone lives happily-ever-after tale, exposes child abuse in ways we cannot fathom and will horrify us. It overcomes the depression and shows us the other side of that trauma. Children die and others are abused and live with the consequences years later, but the human spirit wants to survive and does its best to save the souls of those left behind. Don’t let the subject matter deter you; it’s a wonderful, uplifting, thought provoking book that is a quick and fascinating read.