Category Archives: How Quickly She Disappears

Review: How Quickly She Disappears by Raymond Fleischmann

Title: How Quickly She Disappears by Raymond Fleischmann
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Historical, Mystery
Length: 320 pages
Book Rating: D

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through First to Read


The Dry meets The 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….

My proposition is very simple: I am going to ask you for three gifts, and for each gift you deliver, I will take you one step closer to Jacqueline.

It’s been twenty years since Elisabeth’s twin sister, Jacqueline, disappeared without a trace. Now thirty-year-old Elisabeth is living far from home in a small Alaskan town. She’s in a loveless marriage and has a precocious young daughter she loves more than anything but who reminds her too much of her long-missing sister.

But then Alfred, a dangerous stranger with a plan of his own, arrives in town and commits an inexplicable act of violence. And he offers a startling revelation: He knows exactly what happened to Elisabeth’s sister, but he’ll reveal this truth only if she fulfills his three requests.

Increasingly isolated from her neighbors and imprisoned by the bitter cold and her own obsession, Elisabeth can almost hear her sister’s voice saying, Come and find me. And so she will, even if it means putting herself—and her family—in danger.


How Quickly She Disappears by Raymond Fleischmann is a historical mystery set in Alaska.

In 1941, thirty-one year old Elisabeth Pfautz, her husband John and their eleven year old daughter Margaret live in Tanacross. John works for the Office of Indian Affairs and his latest posting is teaching the Athabaskan children in the village. Elisabeth is also a teacher and she is homeschooling  Margaret. Elisabeth has never quite recovered from the loss of her twin sister Jacqueline who disappeared twenty years earlier at the age of eleven.

Past and present soon collide with the arrival of Alfred Seidel, a rather strange man who claims to have information about Jacqueline.  Following his arrest for murder, Alfred is jailed in Fairbanks. Elisabeth continues to be drawn into his orbit with his promises to tell her about Jacqueline but only if she follows his directives.  Will Elisabeth learn the truth about Jacqueline’s fate?

Elisabeth is in an unhappy marriage and she remains deeply troubled by Jacqueline’s disappearance. Despite her qualms about allowing Alfred to stay with her and Margaret while John is away, she feels like she has no but to offer him a bed.  She is drawn to him but she is equally repelled by his intensity and odd behavior. Elisabeth is determined to discover the truth about Jacqueline and she makes increasingly desperate and  questionable choices that could result in tragedy.

Interspersed with events in the present are dream-filled chapters about Elisabeth’s childhood. These sequences reveal the somewhat strained relationship between Elisabeth and Jacqueline. Elisabeth is a dutiful daughter but her sister is defiant and desperate to run away.  Jacqueline’s unsolved disappearance is a defining moment  in Elisabeth’s life that she can never move past.

How Quickly She Disappears is a rather atmospheric mystery with a setting that springs vividly to life.  The novel’s premise is unique but the pacing is slow and the entire plot is somewhat unrealistic. With one exception, the characters are unlikable with whiplash inducing personality changes. Elisabeth’s conviction Jacqueline is still alive leaves her  willing to take extreme risks. Raymond Fleischmann brings the novel to an unsettling, cliffhanger conclusion.

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Filed under Berkley, Historical, Historical (40s), How Quickly She Disappears, Mystery, Rated D, Raymond Fleischmann, Review