cover image The Vanishing Point

The Vanishing Point

Mary Sharratt / Author Mariner Books $13.95 (369p) ISBN 978-0-

Sexual tension and foreboding abound in this engaging but clumsy colonial potboiler. Sharrat's novel chronicles the travails of Hannah and May Powers, close English sisters who have been raised by their physician father. May is sent to Maryland in order to be married, but when Hannah arrives in the New World for a visit, she is informed by her brother-in-law that May has died following childbirth. Hannah suspects something sinister, though, and begins searching for the truth even as she becomes romantically entangled with her sister's widower. Sharratt succeeds in keeping the plot unpredictable, even as the characters, prose and dialogue are mired in cliche and awkward syntax (""How came you here?"" and ""Get you back to the dock"" are typical examples of the novel's 17th century-speak). An over-reliance on shifting perspectives and chronological jumps also obstructs the novel's strengths, including interesting, well-researched period detail with an emphasis on food and medicine. These winning passages coexist queasily with sex scenes that seem lifted from lesser romance novels. The plot remains sturdy, however, leading to a conclusion that is well-orchestrated and satisfying.