How Quickly She Disappears by Raymond Fleischmann
- Published: January 14th 2020
- Pages: 320
- Format: E-Book (ARC)
- Tags: Mystery/Thriller, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Realism, Missing Persons, Mothers & Daughters, Sisters, Twins
| Synopsis From the Publisher |
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.
| Book Review |
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Berkley Publishing Group through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
– Content –
Back-and-forth timeline that makes for a interesting read -> Part of the mystery in this book is that it plays out in the past as well as the future. Elisabeth’s twin sister disappears when she’s a young girl and Elisabeth as an adult is still hanging onto the hope of finding her. The story follows the timeline of the past and the present, moving backwards and forwards every few chapters, giving us a glimpse of young Else and adult Else. I think this helped keep the story interesting, because without it, I think it would have been even more boring that I found it to be…
An odd assortment of characters -> I want to say that I liked Else. She’s the main character, and she does have her moments, but I also was very frustrated with her at many times throughout. She makes some really questionable choices and at times is very passive to the point of just letting things happen with no fight. I hate her husband and her daughter (who is very spoiled and very much the rebellious teenager). There wasn’t really any one character I liked, which never lends itself to me liking the book much. Unfortunately there wasn’t much in this book to make up for this fact.
The mystery is not predictable, but also not very interesting -> I think this is the first mystery book I’ve read where the actual mystery seems like it’s a backseat to the story. There really wasn’t much to it besides wondering, “What did happen to Else’s sister?” There were times where I really, really wanted answers, but other times where I felt…just bored and didn’t really care. Even when the stakes were raised! I think this is mainly due to the fact that this book just…drags on too long. It might be labeled a mystery/thriller, but…it didn’t feel very thriller until the last thirty pages or so. I was a bit let down by this.
– Literary Value-
Decent writing, slow Plot -> One of the biggest flaws I found with this book is the slow plot. It really took forever for the story to get going and even when I think the author was intending for the story to be gripping and tense, I felt mostly bored. The positive thing I can say about it is that the writing is good. I felt like Fleischmann definitely had a command of the language and the prose seemed to flow really well. This is one of the book’s saving graces that have kept me from scoring it lower.
Unlikable characters and little growth -> I’ve already spoken a little about my general dislike but I also want to say a bit about the character development here. I don’t think Fleischmann really developed Else or any of the other characters well. They felt a little stock to me, a bit one-sided. Else goes through a really harrowing ordeal towards the end of this book and lots of upsetting things happen throughout, but she doesn’t seem very effected by them. I feel like she comes out of this thing almost the same as at the beginning, which doesn’t, to me, speak highly of her development or of the quality of this book.
Where’s the thrill? -> This book is billed as a mystery with suspense, but…I didn’t really feel it. There were moments that I think Fleischmann did manage some level of tension, and the final pages of the book were pretty thrilling…but it too 200+ pages to get to that point with little else before that. I just didn’t feel like this mystery was as well-developed as it could be. Part of that is due to the fact that the lynch-pin character, the catalyst of this story’s plot, isn’t in it all that much. It makes it difficult for this story to generate any strong feelings and so I think the mystery of it is a bit muted.
– Entertainment Factor –
I haven’t given this book a very high rating because I wasn’t really all that entertained while reading it. The most this book managed to make me feel was curious. At the end, I did feel some tension/suspense, which was good, but it took a lot to get there. I wouldn’t necessarily say that I didn’t enjoy my time reading this book, however. I think the writing is decent enough that I felt compelled to keep reading. But most of the book, to me, was a bit boring and I wish that there had been a bit more thrill in it.
– Cover Art –
I like this cover, no doubt. I think it conveys the bleakness and overall austerity of the setting (Alaskan bush), and the bitter cold. It’s cool tones give you that chill and I like the way the letters have been melded into the image. It’s overall monochromatic look, though, isn’t exactly eye-catching, but I think it’s still aesthetically pleasing enough that I’d give it a look if I were to come across it.
| My Rating |
Ok, But Not My Cup of Tea
I was really hoping to like this book. It has a really interesting premise and I like that it’s set in Alaska. I wish a bit more could have been done with the time-period. You barely get the sense that it’s the eve of WWII, other than the sense that the main character and her family, who are of German descent, are being looked at askance and a bit mistrusted. I also didn’t really love any of the characters, which didn’t make for a very fun read. The writing is decent, though, so I think this kept me from feeling this book was a waste of my time.
My biggest critique of this book, however, would be that it just doesn’t feel like a mystery-thriller. The mystery is there, sure, but it just doesn’t feel like the stakes are high-enough, or that Else cares strongly enough. The plot also moves pretty slowly, so things take a while to really build up speed and develop into suspense.
Would I recommend this book?
I don’t think I would go out of my way to, but I think there might be a handful of people I know who would appreciate it. I don’t think it’s a bad book, it’s just very mediocre, so I don’t feel compelled to recommend it.