I love books set in Alaska. Seriously, they always have a dark and dangerous vibe to them that I adore. Alaska becomes a completely separate character more than any other setting. Perhaps it is my unfamiliarity with the state or its apparent lack of civility, but I enjoy any story that occurs in Alaska simply because it occurs in Alaska.
Having said that, you would think I enjoyed How Quickly She Disappears. After all, the action occurs in Alaska. Unfortunately, no setting can help you enjoy or even sympathize with the characters. Even worse, Raymond Fleischmann’s thriller hinges on his characters. If you don’t feel for Elisabeth, then you are not going to enjoy the story.
Frankly, I did not like any of the characters. Alfred is creepy AF, which should be a good thing except is nothing but a distraction. Elisabeth’s husband is an asshole. Their daughter is a burgeoning teenager with all of the self-absorption and attitude. As for Elisabeth, she should be a tragic figure. After all, she lost her identical twin sister. Plus, she left behind a career and some semblance of independence to move to a remote fishing town in Alaska. Except I could not connect to her at all. I did not understand her motivation and lost patience with her eagerness to ignore her own common sense. The entire story does not hold up under rational thought, and I did not have the patience with any of the characters to set aside my rational side.
Also, even though the novel occurs at the beginning of World War II, there is an odd timeless quality to the story that disconcerted me. For someone who acts and thinks like a “proper” 40s housewife, there are times when her thoughts and actions do not fit into that pattern. At those moments, she acts more modern than she is. Those moments always jarred me and prevented me from finding her a sympathetic character. In fact, I started to fear that this was going to be another unreliable narrator story. I doubt this was Mr. Fleischmann’s intention.
I opened How Quickly She Disappears with low expectations, hoping for an intriguing lost person mystery that would entertain me at the very least. It did not entertain me so much as somewhat disgust me as I did not like any of the characters, an utter failure in a character-driven mystery. Even Alaska could not redeem this one for me.