The formula for most abduction stories goes like this: victim is abducted, victim is rescued, end of story. Lisa Regan set out to break that mold in Vanishing Girls.
Regan recalls, “What if the missing person was found, but that was the beginning of the story and not the end? And I went from there.”
In Vanishing Girls, someone in the small, close-knit town of Denton is committing unspeakable crimes. Can Detective Josie Quinn catch the killer before another victim dies? (Read our review here.)
Regan provided more insight into the book, its characters and its themes in this recent Q&A.
Q: Although Denton is a fictional town, how do the characteristics of small rural towns make local crimes and their investigations either easier or more difficult?
A: Having a fictional town ultimately makes things easier for the writer. Every jurisdiction in Pennsylvania has its differences in terms of staffing, procedure and the types of crimes they deal with. Also, and most importantly, there are vast differences in budgets, which is probably the most challenging thing to work with in a fictional town. Denton is actually a small city, so they’d have access to a lot of different equipment for processing crime scenes but they definitely wouldn’t have the equipment or the manpower of a larger city, like Philadelphia. So the challenge is making things realistic according to what kind of budget they might be working with. A smaller department might rely on the county sheriff or the state bureau of investigation or state police or even the FBI for certain things and that’s something you always have to be cognizant of, even in a fictional place.
Q: What inspired Josie Quinn’s character, and what are the most important characteristics that you’d like readers to know about her?
A: Josie was inspired by the idea that many fictional detectives in the genre are male, damaged, flawed and a little rogue. I wanted to take that idea and turn it on its head by making the same type of detective a woman. She is gritty and scrappy, and she doesn’t have it in her to walk away from injustice. Also, although she’s got emotional baggage throughout the series, she grows and changes. So the brash and impulsive Josie you meet in book one becomes wiser and more measured with each book and each case she works.
Q: Tell us about the theme of betrayal that runs through the book on so many levels?
A: I think there is nothing more terrifying than finding out the people you love and trust are not the people you believed them to be. For Josie, this is especially painful. Her emotional foundation is shaky to begin with, given the abuse she endured as a child. It’s extremely difficult for her to trust anyone. Being betrayed by people she loves and trusts is almost the worst thing that can happen to her. What better way to raise the stakes for Josie personally than to weave the theme of betrayal throughout the book? It’s every bit as hard for her to manage and overcome as the real villains in the book.
Q: Is there a main message you’d like readers to take away from Vanishing Girls?
A: For women to be careful out in the world. Also, if you see something, say something. Sometimes it only takes one person speaking up to protect countless others.