Reviewed by Chris Richards.
Carolyn Ruffles has done it again! The Vanishing Encore is a worthy addition to the romantic thriller genre. Not too heavy or taxing with the right balance of mystery, thrilling twists and romance with heart warming characterisation, desperation, desire, and gentle comedy.
The protagonist, Lily Nichol has grown to adulthood under a cloud of secrets, fear, and longing to find her beloved sister. After her father dies, her mother cannot cope and the stability Lily’s youth had known crumbles around her. The story champions strength of will in adversity and bravery in many shades.
This book could be read in a long autumnal evening or equally enjoyed episodically depending on the reader’s preference, either way it is enveloping, ready to draw you into the mystery. The tangled timelines and varying perspectives creates an absorbing and compelling narrative. The realistic dialogue and likable main characters are paired deliciously with an illusive, destructive, and despicable foe. Ever present in fears and anxieties but only truly unleashed first hand to the reader at the crescendo.
Todd, the protagonist’s love interest is persistent, constant, and handsome. A paragon of fatherhood to his young daughter. A true hero. His perfection and the antagonist’s tall, dark silhouette of evil villainy is potentially irksome and a little played out. However, it is overshadowed by the cornucopia of strong, resilient, and delightfully individual women throughout the story. So can be forgiven as Lily truly deserves a perfect hero by the end of the book and all the satisfaction he can bring her.
An interesting detail that had not occurred to me until I had finished the story is the absence of pandemic or COVID-19 references. The book is an escape from the restrictions, hygiene preoccupation, and stressful changes our recent history has brought to our day to day existence, where ever we are in the world now. This is mentioned in the acknowledgments by the author and was a conscious decision. To depart so utterly to a ‘before time’ was pleasant and I feel to include it all might have been a distraction.
Carolyn Ruffles is based in Norfolk and took to writing once she retired from teaching. This, her third novel after The Girl in the Scrapbook and Who To Trust (read our review), is proof of her growing confidence and skill – Ruffles’ expanding fanbase is well deserved and is driven by the quality of her stories.
For an incidental and thoroughly enjoyable read, look no further than The Vanishing Encore. A satisfying and cathartic tale to relax with after a day of stressful and humdrum reality.
Self-published and available now on Amazon and the author’s website carolynrufflesauthor.com
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