Book Review: How Quickly She Disappears by Raymond Fleischmann (ARC)

How Quickly She Disappears

Author: Raymond Fleischmann

Publication Date: 14 January 2020

Genre: Adult Fiction – Mystery Thriller/Historical Fiction

Pages: 320

Publisher: Berkley

The Dry meets Silence of the Lambs in this intoxicating tale of literary suspense set in the relentless Alaskan landscape about madness and obsession, loneliness and grief, and the ferocious bonds of family …

It’s 1941 in small-town Alaska and Elisabeth Pfautz is alone. She’s living far from home, struggling through an unhappy marriage, and she spends her days tutoring her precocious young daughter. Elisabeth’s twin sister disappeared without a trace twenty years earlier, and Elisabeth’s life has never recovered. Cryptic visions of her sister haunt her dreams, and Elisabeth’s crushing loneliness grows more intense by the day. But through it all, she clings to one belief: That her sister is still alive, and that they’ll be reunited one day.

And that day may be coming soon. Elisabeth’s world is upended when Alfred Seidel — an enigmatic German bush pilot — arrives in town and murders a local man in cold blood. Sitting in his cell in the wake of his crime, Alfred refuses to speak to anyone except for Elisabeth. He has something to tell her: He knows exactly what happened to her long-missing sister, but he’ll reveal this truth only if Elisabeth fulfills three requests.

Increasingly isolated from her neighbors and imprisoned by the bitter cold and her own obsession, Elisabeth lets herself slip deeper into Alfred’s web. A tenuous friendship forms between them, even as Elisabeth struggles to understand Alfred’s game and what he’s after.

But if it means she’ll get answers, she’s willing to play by his rules. She’s ready to sacrifice whatever it takes to be reunited with her sister, even if it means putting herself — and her family — in mortal danger.

When I first read the premise for How Quickly She Disappears, I was immediately intrigued and needed to know more about Elisabeth, her sister that disappeared, and Alfred…the cold-blooded murderer.

While I did enjoy this story, I do think that the premise is a bit misleading. The premise alludes to a psychological thriller wrought with suspense and intrigue that is in the same league as Silence of the Lambs, however, this is more of a slow-burn mystery that has some pretty incredible atmospheric writing.

It’s 1941 and it’s been 20 years since Elisabeth’s twin sister Jacqueline disappeared. Even though Elisabeth is still plagued with nightmares, she clings to notion that her sister must be alive even after all of this time. Elisabeth’s whole world is turned upside down when Alfred Siedel comes to town. After murdering a man in cold blood, he insists that he has information about Jacqueline’s whereabouts. In order for Elisabeth to gain this information, she must give Alfred three gifts as well as keep their meetings a secret from everyone. Can Elisabeth trust Alfred? Does he really know what happened to Jacqueline and if she’s still alive?

This story starts off with a bang with the gruesome murder that Alfred committed in the tiny, desolate town of Tanacross. However, following the murder, the story sort of teeters along. The story mainly focuses on Elisabeth’s failing marriage as well as the interactions that she has with Albert Siedel. In regards to Elisabeth’s husband, he was an absolute piece of trash that I would’ve thrown something thrown at if he spoke to me in the manner that he addressed Elisabeth. I found him to be utterly infuriating, and it only got worse as the story progressed. However, played a crucial role into Elisabeth’s psyche for choosing to pursue a correspondence type relationship with Alfred even though she knew she was playing with fire.

I found the interactions between Albert and Elisabeth to be the most fascinating part of the plot but I definitely wanted a more psychologically taxing scenario like that of Silence of the Lambs, which unfortunately we didn’t get in this story.

Overall, I think this is a good, atmospheric mystery that has some suspenseful moments and explores a non-conventional relationship for the sake of information.

Thank you to Berkley Publishing for providing a review copy. This did not influence my review. All opinions are my own.

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