November 24, 2013

‘Vanished’ is part history, part WWII thriller

“Vanished: The Sixty-Year Search for the Missing Men of World War II” by Wil S. Hylton (Riverhead, $27.95)

“Vanished: The Sixty-Year Search for the Missing Men of World War II” by Wil S. Hylton (Riverhead, $27.95)

Wil S. Hylton’s superb new book, “Vanished: The Sixty-Year Search for the Missing Men of World War II,” is part history, part Indiana Jones-type thriller. “Vanished” pays tribute to the men who were lost in a largely forgotten campaign, and it celebrates the determination of the divers and scientists who risk their lives in exotic places to bring the missing home.

Hylton’s narrative charges, and his writing is lean and vivid, especially when it depicts battle. Here, the Japanese scramble U.S. bombers: “As the first squadron approached, a swarm of Japanese Zeros leaped from the airfields toward them, zipping around the Fifth bombers and dancing in the air above them, swooping down like knives to slice through them, rattling them with machine-gun fire, and then looping overhead again to drop phosphorous bombs that exploded into tentacles of white-hot liquid dripping down the clouds.”

“Fixing to Die” by Elaine Viets (Obsidian, $7.99)

The ninth novel in this series finds Josie mystery shopping for her boss as well as for herself. Josie and her husband, Ted Scottsmeyer, have been married a few months now and are ready to move into a home of their own. It has to be close enough to Ted’s veterinarian practice and to the private school that Josie’s 11-year-old daughter, Amelia, attends on scholarship. The couple may have found the perfect place: a fixer-upper owned by Ted’s business partner, fellow veterinarian Christine Cormac. The roomy house is in a good St. Louis neighborhood. The neighbors seem nice – one is a college professor, the other has a Parson Russell terrier she is readying to be a champion show dog. Josie is ready to plunge into the world of rehabbers and contractors, joining the trend of midcentury design with a fresh look.

But before construction dust can settle, Josie’s helpers find the body of Christine’s sister Rain under a dilapidated gazebo in the backyard. Rain was a free spirit who often disappeared for months at a time. Josie becomes involved in the investigation when Christine is arrested, affecting Ted’s veterinary practice.

Viets’ energetic storytelling keeps “Fixing to Die” on a brisk pace.

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