Operation Vanished, by Helen C. Escott

Nine stars

After loving Helen C. Escott’s debut novel about policing in Newfoundland and Labrador, I could not wait to get my hands on this second piece. Set again on The Rock, Escott takes readers into a darker and oft-forgotten side of missing person inquiries from yesteryear. After spending a decade working for the RCMP elsewhere, Constable Gail McNaughton has returned home to work in St. John’s. Trying to fill her father’s shoes, Gail is assigned the daunting task of looking into a number of missing persons cases fro mother 1950s, all having long gone cold. While trying to speak to some of the few remaining witnesses, Gail is told of a local lore than might explain at least those women who went missing and never returned. Some feel that it is likely the faeries that took them, sometimes keeping them and returning changelings, other times killing them for some misdeed. Whatever the case, Constable McNaughton is trying to use her policing skills and keep the tales to a minimum. As she works with one victim’s son to unearth truths over six decades in the past, she finds a loose link to a number of the events, something that might prove to be a solid lead. With many who were adults at the time either dead or decrepit, it will be up to Constable McNaughton to find justice for these women, who were all but forgotten at a time when the missing had their names drift off along the ocean winds. A powerful novel that digs to the core of Canadian history and lore, Escott delivers brilliantly in this second novel. Recommended to those who love a good cold case mystery, as well as the reader who enjoys a little Canadiana with their reading experience.

I could not say enough when I read Helen C. Escott’s opening novel and I am sure the same will be said again here. I was pulled into the middle of an explosive theme of crime thriller and am so pleased to see that this came out for readers to discover. Constable Gail McNaughton proves to be a wonderfully complex protagonist whose past and present mix together nicely as she seeks to reveal hard truths about Newfoundland. Raised in the RCMP tradition, McNaughton could almost say that policing is in her blood, which becomes apparent as she investigates these crimes. The reader learns much about her in a personal and professional manner throughout, which permits a closer connection as the story progresses. While trying to understand the lore many older Newfoundlanders hold dear, McNaughton is forced to face her own issues and grow from the experiences. Others that surround her prove equally interesting as they help shape the story in a variety of ways, some of which could not be expected from the outset. The story itself was not only entertaining, but also highly educations and deeply moving. Missing and murdered women is an issue currently being addressed in a small way in Canada, though the Newfoundland angle and the explanation that comes from the narrative is highly sobering and will likely touch on the heartstrings of many readers. Escott knows how to weave a tale that is both eye-opening and will resonate for a long time, which might actually bring more than lip service to the issue at hand. I can only hope that others will be as compelled as I have to learn more. I was pleased to hear that Helen Escott has many more ideas that come to mind during her walks with that blessed family pet.

Kudos, Madam Escott, for a stunning novel. I am so pleased to have come across your work and hope to read more in the coming years.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons