The remote Alaskan bush of the 1940s provides the compelling and remote backdrop to Raymond Fleischmann’s How Quickly She Disappears.

Elisabeth Pfautz has come to Tanacross, Alaska, with her daughter, Margaret, due to her husband’s teaching job. Homeschooling Margaret, a brilliant young girl, Else, as she’s called by her husband, John, puts her own teaching career on hold as the little family adjust to the barren landscape.

It’s a lonely life as Else reacts to the Alaskan culture, beautifully described in many scenes, and based on the Fleischmann’s grandparents stories of living in Tanacross for several years during this time.

Else sees in Margaret the twin sister who disappeared when the girls were eleven. No trace of Jacqueline has ever been found, yet Else believes firmly that she is alive.

When a German pilots lands in Tanacross, an act of horrible murder brings him to prison but with an unexpected result: the pilot, Alfred, contends he knows what happened to Jacqueline, even where she is, and will share this with Else only after she completes three requests for him.

Determined to find out the truth about her sister, Else will brave her marriage and her safety to follow her conviction that the pilot, whatever his own obsessions, does indeed have information about what happened to Else’s twin all those years ago.

Fleischmann parses out the twins’ history so readers follow the events leading up to Jacqueline’s disappearance. His scenes between Else and Alfred are cat-and-mouse at first glance, who is actually toying with whom?

There’s an element of rising tension as the story advances that will keep readers glued to the pages with a very layered tension that builds to a stunning climax. A dark but absorbing debut. Highly recommended.