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The Vanished Child (Vanished Child #1)

3.55  ·  Rating details ·  277 Ratings  ·  35 Reviews
"Truly mesmerizing."
New England, 1887. The millionaire William Knight is brutally murdered and the only witness is his grandchild, Richard, who himself disappears, and is presumed dead. Eighteen years later, Richard is "recognized" in Switzerland in the person of Alexander von Reisden, and William Knight's only son, Gilbert, is convinced that this man is t
Hardcover, 420 pages
Published March 17th 1992 by Ballantine Books (first published 1992)
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As the author herself says about her fictional story, "There are great ragged holes in the story." Her story involves a young man who may not be who he thought he was but may instead have lost his memory due to severe childhood trauma. As a reader I was disappointed, I don't think the author finishes much of anything which is too bad as the book has an intriguing premise, very fine details, a gothic atmosphere and a beguiling love story. I wanted so much more from this book because she creates a ...more
May 09, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There are all the trappings of a traditional mystery, and yet this book easily escapes that pigeonhole. Nineteen years ago, a man was murdered and his grandchild kidnapped. Alexander agrees to pretend to be the child returned, only to find himself growing uncertain about the truth. As much as you wonder about the past, you get caught up in the web of the characters in the present, as Smith deftly handles the nuances and intensity of their emotions and relationships.
Jul 21, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2008
I bought this back in 1997 because I liked the cover of The Knowledge of Water (I'm so fickle!). My friend told me that one was actually a sequel and that I needed to read this one first. This book is not at all what I expected, and it continually offered surprises and kept me guessing throughout. The prose was dense, and sometimes challenging to follow. But the author painted vivid scenes and the style added intense psychological depth. The conclusion was not what I wanted it to be, but it was ...more
Miss Ginny Tea
Jul 14, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read_2007, mine
This was such a good book. The characters are interesting and flawed and complex (except the ones who aren't supposed to be complex). The plot & setting are the perfect media for delivering the character development of the story. It's technically a mystery, but you don't have to like mysteries to like this.

It's technically the beginning of a trilogy. This book is complete on its own, and I have chosen to pretend that subsequent books don't exist. But that's my own bias.
Jun 22, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the first book in the series, including The Vanished Child, The Knowledge of Water, and A Citizen of the Country. I've read the first two books twice in the last 10 years. If you enjoy historical novels and mystery, these books are a lot of fun. They take place in the United States and Europe in the years before the First World War, and you get a real feel for the times.
May 08, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Loved this elegant, character-driven mystery. I read this first book second, but will now go on to read the final book in the trilogy because I enjoy the writing and the characters. This is a mystery for patient readers who like literary fiction. I had a hard time putting it down, but it required attention. Not a beach read!
Oct 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
All I can say about this book is - love love love it.
It dragged on and on, and then it didn't really end.
Lisa James
May 25, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting murder-mystery, cold case sort of tale, with amnesia, & romance mixed in, set in the late 1800's to 1906. I would recommend it if you enjoy historical fiction!
Meg Benjamin
Jan 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of my all-time favorites. Lush, romantic style coupled with an intriguing and ultimately unsettling mystery.
Ann Sloan
I wanted so much to like this book. From the Gothic cover, its recognition as a New York Time Notable Book, the time and setting (New England, early 20th century), I thought this would be about the murder of the child and the detection of the crime.

However, the plot went a whole other course. That was all right; I can cope with redirection, if it is handled well…

A family friend believes that Alexander von Reisden, a chemist and the son of a Swiss baron, is the missing Richard Knight, the vanish
Anne Samachson
Feb 01, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Call me shallow if you wish, but when I read a mystery novel, I want the story's loose ends to be neatly tied up when I reach the final page. I want to know whodunit and why. If you feel the same way, this book, although it is beautifully written, is sure to disappoint you. The author doesn't provide answers to any of the puzzles she sets forth. How did the boy disappear in broad daylight? Did he run away or was he kidnapped? Is Reisden really the missing heir? How could a young boy get from Bos ...more
Tamara Bennett
Dec 09, 2010 rated it it was ok
it took 120 pgs for this bk to get interesting. i've only quit on 2 bks my entire life so i slogged through & it's why it took me so long to read it.
the writing was so very murky that it was difficult to keep track of which character was which. i never cared much about any of the characters, actually disliked a few more than the ones intended, i think, by the author. heck, even the title is a bit deceptive. & on top of all the annoying characters & constant confusion, it had a terri
Dec 13, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I just couldn't get into this book and it got thrown to the wall I'm afraid.

Back Cover Blurb:
New England. The night of August 5th, 1887. Millionaire William Knight is brutally murdered, shot dead in the front room of his grand house by a lake. The only witness to the killing, his young granchild, mysteriously disappears....
Eighteen years later, in Switzerland, a man with no memory is 'recognised' as Richard Knight, the missing child. Thus begins a masterpiece of historical suspense, as one man's
Smith, Sarah - 1st in the Reisden series

Into the life of the Knight family, a wealthy New England clan living in the early years of the twentieth century, comes a mysterious stranger who is determined to unearth the truth behind the disappearance and presumed death of Richard Knight.

I really wanted to like this book but just couldn't. I was very slow going and I never felt involved. Even worse, there were so many loose ends left, it was very disappointing.
May 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: crime, american
Set in 1887, The Vanished Child read as a period piece. There was an old-fashioned sensibility about it. The set up, a doppelganger agrees to participate in attempting to resolve a mystery, is far-fetched. Just what one would expect of a crime novel in the late 19th century. That made it a change of pace from the modern PI detective novel that is my usual fare. Nicely written, but would not expect it to be an appealing read for many.
Antoinette Palmieri
I just finished this book this afternoon.

I did enjoy it, almost to the point I could not put it down. I liked the science part, the psychological parts and the development of characters. I do, however, wish it did not end so "and they all will now live happily ever after"

But all in all, I think if you enjoy murder mysteries with a good bit of history research in them read this book
Nov 05, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Usual suspect book club read for November.
This was a little difficult to get into, and I found some parts repetitive and frustrating but I will admit that I stayed up much later than I should have to finish it!
Inge Hulsker
The ending is predictable, so you basically spend the entire book for the main character to finally figure out what you already know. There were some nice parts in the story, so I will say it's a good read, but not one of the better books I've read.
Naomi Blackburn
The premise for this story is that I should really enjoy it more. I am having a really difficult time getting into this book. I am not quite half-way through, so I am really hoping this changes~

ETA 04/06/2011~ I finished this book today and it didn' I would actually give it 2.5 stars
Mar 01, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
This book was so good! So well-written I didn't even read ahead to figure out who-dun-it. Be forewarned, though, there is a very graphic depiction of brutality towards an animal, something I can't stand to read about.
Oct 20, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I picked this up at a "book swap" in a rental house in NH. I love finding old books in random places always hoping for a fantastic find. Unfortunately this wasn't one of those. I am still not quite sure if the main character was the vanished child or not?
Feb 03, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novel
The first book in a trilogy set in the early 20th century, about a small American boy who disappears after the death of his grandfather, then reappears (maybe) as a Baron scientist in Europe. Although somewhat melodramatic, it is well written and held my attention.
Jul 17, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical
So-so psychological mystery set, like an awful lot of stuff recently, at the turn of the (last) century. Not sure where this trend came from. Well, it started with Caleb Carr and 'The Alienist', I think, but I don t know why it caught on. ...more
Oct 25, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I remember really enjoying this one and the second one, but not so much the third one in this trilogy. Maybe I should reread.
Circlestones Blog
A quite confusing story.
Margie Baker
Jun 13, 2009 rated it liked it
interesting plot, but at times the story seemed to drag.
Heidi Day
I struggled to finish this book. I did finish, but sadly I didn't really like it all that much.
May 04, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Slow to get into...I'm hoping it will get better soon.
Jul 07, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1999, age-adult, mystery
This book sounded interesting, but I thought it would be more of a thriller/horror novel than a mystery (which is what it was).
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Sarah Smith has been interested in ghosts and storytelling since she was four. Her sitter told her Japanese ghost stories at night, which she retold on the schoolbus the next morning. When she heard the story of the haunted house and the Perkins Bequest, she knew she had to write about it. No one knows what became of the real Perkins Bequest. She hopes The Other Side of Dark may help solve the mys

More about Sarah Smith...

Other Books in the Series

Vanished Child (3 books)
  • The Knowledge of Water
  • A Citizen of the Country

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