In the late 1930s in New York, Marielle Patterson shares her life with her husband Malcolm and their little boy Teddy. But their lives are filled with secrets.
Haunted by a past she has kept secret even from her husband, Marielle secretly lights a candle each year for a child who died in a tragic accident when he was scarcely more than a baby. Then Marielle runs into her first love, American expatriate Charles Delauney.
And when her little Teddy is kidnapped Charles is first blamed, then arrested, as the Pattersons, the New York Police and the FBI turn the country upside down, looking for Teddy. A terrifying court drama seeks to put Charles Delauney behind bars, as a series of revelations begin to unravel the truth about Marielle, Charles, and Malcolm.
Piece by piece the uncovering of their pasts creates a complex mosaic of the motives and passions controlling their lives. Vanished is an intriguing tale of guilt, desire and suspense, and people one can't easily forget, as they are drawn inexorably together, seeking the child that... vanished.
Like Belva Plain in Whispers (p. 326), Steel soft-pedals gauzy romance in a fairly tightly plotted story - set mainly in 1930's Manhattan and about a lady wildly unlucky in love who's forced to deal with crime - in this case, kidnapping. Like Plain's battered wife, Marielle once loved unwisely. Charles Delauney (fiery green eyes) and Marielle (her eyes were "deep blue sapphires") had met in 1926 in Paris, then went on to make a gloriously happy marriage - until that moment when tragedy overtook their small son in a drowning accident, as well as their unborn child aa the pregnant Marielle attempted a rescue. Suffering from Charles's accusations and blame, Marielle ended up spending some years in a sanitarium. Now, back again in Manhattan, Marielle is the protected, secure wife of rich businessman Malcolm Patterson, a smooth gent who does a good bit of business with Nazi Germany, and her joy in an otherwise restricted life is four-year-old Teddy. It is the sight of Teddy that sends expatriate Charles (who returns from the Spanish Civil War and meets Marielle in the park) into a wild rage - and when, horribly, Teddy is kidnapped, into the slammer aa a suspect. Throughout Marielle's ordeal - with terrible reminders of the Lindbergh case - FBI agent John Taylor offers a strong shoulder (and more); a feisty newspaper woman turns up important clues; a mobster named Louis the Lover turns up a heart of gold; and the rosy respectability of Malcolm's circle takes on a new hue. There will be a trial, a last-minute rescue, and, at the close, Steel trots out a nice man for Marielle. As for Teddy, not to worry. Okay, worry a little.... The smashing duds and digs are still there - plus the subject's predictable pull. (Kirkus Reviews)