How Quickly She Disappears by Raymond Fleischmann

A BarksBeachesBooks Review

Raymond Fleischmann gives us a beautifully written debut novel with How Quickly She Disappears. Following Elisabeth on dual timelines we witness in one the grooming and taking of her 11-year-old twin sister, Jacqueline, and in the other we watch Elizabeth slowly unravel at the appearance of a mysterious man named Alfred. Alfred, who claims to know what happened to Jacqueline. Alfred, who knows everything about Elisabeth though they’ve never met. Alfred who might be a little bit mad.


Elisabeth is living in remote Alaska with her distant husband and fiercely intelligent daughter, Margaret. When Alfred shows up claiming he needs to rest before a flight, Elisabeth allows him to stay in their guest room. From there things quickly spiral out of control. Even after murder, her daughter’s attempts to get attention, her husband constantly battling her beliefs and actions, and prison (among other things) Elisabeth pursues the truth about her sister. 


This book reads like The Silence of the Lambs watches (I’ve only seen the movie) with a drawn-out cat and mouse chase between Alfred and Elisabeth. Alfred’s quickly changing moods do nothing to quell Elisabeth’s hunt for facts. Repeated attempts from her husband and police to stop her vigilante investigationdoes not deter her. I loved the steady pace of this book and the way Raymond really brings us with him to watch Elisabeth lose herself in her search for her 20-years-missing sister.


This book is dark and beautiful and haunting and I will absolutely be buying Raymond’s next book.

Cilka’s Journey by Heather Morris

A BarksBeachesBooks Review

Cecilia “Cilka” Klein has every reason to hate her life, the people involved in the pain she’s had to endure, and humanity in general. The amazing thing about her is that she doesn’t. No matter what happens to her, Cilka continues to stand up for herself and those around her and be the best person she can be. I would like to think that I would respond to Cilka’s circumstances as valiantly as she did. But based on my reaction to people not using a blinker in traffic I don’t think it’s likely.

Joking aside, this book is incredible. I am so glad Heather Morris decided to continue her work from Lale and The Tattooist of Auschwitz and let us know what happened to an important and influential character. This is a devasting and heart wrenching story, but it is an as important one as any from the Holocaust and World War 2 are.

Not only is this the story of what happened to Cilka, it also the story of how her very soul endured and continued to give humanity chance after chance to be good when she had no reason to believe it ever would. In Cilka’s Journey we follow Cilka after the release of the concentration camps at the end of World War 2. Cilka is pointed out as having aided the enemy as a spy as well as having slept with the enemy. There is no investigation and few questions asked to find her guilty. Did she in fact speak many languages? Was she sleeping with the commander? The facts the she was intelligent and was not sleeping with the man by choice were not factors in condemning a child who went into Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp at 16 and was forced into exile in a Siberian prison upon her release at age 19.

This journey is what happened next. What Cilka’s life was after Auschwitz-Birkenau and during her time in Siberia. Once again unable to go unnoticed, Cilka draws the attention of the male prisoners. She draws the attention of her female prisoner roommates. She finds and tries to protect Josie while she is found out for her past by Hannah and tries to survive her threats. Finally, she captures the attention of a female doctor at the prison who takes her under her wing and teaches her to be a nurse.

This is an incredible journey to be sure. If you are a WW2 or historical fiction fan, then this is for you. If you like human trial and success stories with themes of love and friendship, then this is for you. If you have a heart, then this is the book you need to read.

The Vanishing Season by Dot Hutchison

The team is back in The Collector series by Dot Hutchison! This time Eliza Sterling takes the lead as both detective and story teller in Dot’s most recent case, The Vanishing Season. I am so excited because this is a series that has really stuck with me. Usually I find a series fizzles out after a few books but somehow Dot is doing what others can’t seem to do. I am again, truly, so impressed with her.

Brooklyn Mercer has disappeared. On her walk home from school, the same walk she takes every day, she vanishes without anyone seeing a thing. This throws Eliza and her team into action…a day late. The local authorities didn’t report Brooklyn as a missing child because they were sure they would find her that night. So, their case starts half way to the 48-hour mark, a critical timeframe for missing children.

This is an intense case on top of a currently stressed-to-the-max team as one of their own, Brandon Eddison, is struggling with the time of year: the anniversary of his own missing sister, Faith Eddison. Put all of this together, plus Brandon’s mentor and retired Detective Ian Matson showing up with new links, and suddenly the team has uncovered a chain of missing girls all over the United States. All look alike. All have been the same age. All have been taken during the same time of year, late October to early November, every other year. All have no evidence. It could be a coincidence. It could be a serial kidnapper.

One of the things I love about these books is that each one is told by a different person. Each book also introduces the next likely narrator. In the Butterfly Garden it’s Vic Hanoverian (and a tiny bit of Brandon Eddison) along with Maya telling the unthinkable story of The Gardener. In the next book Brandon takes the lead. It’s incredible how Ms. Hutchison can do this. She tells these amazing stories using all these different characters (from all different backgrounds no less) and yet she does it so seamlessly that I wonder what her real life looks like to do this so effortlessly. (Personally, I imagine she travels all over the world and interviews all kinds of people from different countries and backgrounds to use in her books.)

Another thing that draws me in with this series is that it’s not all serious or all funny or all one tone. Dot seems to really tell the story of a team. Everyone has different personalities, and all are better at something than the others, which contributes to the overall greatness of the team as a whole. Being able to do this makes it harder to stick her books in one genre as well. They are not just horror stories. They also have a true sense of humor as well as drama. They have a true crime sense, as these types of cases are definitely rare but also likely. I’m going to keep calling them thrillers because that’s their best fit but honestly these books would be enjoyable for everyone. Or, mostly everyone. They are “scary stories” after all.

I cannot wait for the fifth book, which there is currently no promise of, but I am placing my bet now: something with dead bodies narrated by the newest team member, Cass Kearney.

When the Lights Go Out by Mary Kubica

Mary Kubica is an expert at twists, as you know if you’ve read Pretty Baby or Don’t You Cry. The twists you expect are the breadcrumb clues she lays out for you to follow, only to make a 180 at the last minute. However, what I loved the most about this book was not the plot twists (the last of which was kind of genius), but rather the genre twist. What starts out as a mystery/psychological thriller does not end in the same way. Mary sets you on one path only to realize you were never really going in the right direction.

Another aspect of Mary’s writing that is appealing to me is how much detail she uses. Personally, I have never had an issue going to sleep. It may not be great sleep, but falling asleep in and of itself is not a problem I can say that I have had. Insomnia as a major theme in the book is something that drew me to it. I knew that I would be able to experience it (if only in my imagination) if Mary was the one describing it – and I was not disappointed. My point here is not that I want to have insomnia, but rather that an author that can use details like Mary does is an amazing thing in helping you really be transported into the story. Nevertheless, due to the detail-oriented writer that she is, there were no doubt sometimes that I wanted the descriptions to just “Hurry up already!” so that I could get to the good stuff – what did she find in the closet crawl space? Who was the man in the garden? Did the clues lead where I thought they would? (Almost never.) Instead I found mini-cliffhangers and then I would be hooked again, reading for hours at a time as I followed a new lead.As an avid reader, I rarely don’t finish a book. I always try to push my way through to give every book a chance. Of course, this has been a waste of time on many books; not this one. Even though I did find myself at certain points begging to know whose social security number it really was, I know that if it weren’t for all the scenic descriptions I wouldn’t be as invested in the story. So, instead of judging a book solely based on what I feel while reading it (this time: frustration, anxiety, determination to guess the twists), what I rely on is the feeling I get after I am finished reading. Is it easily forgettable or am I still constantly thinking about it days later? In this case, and this is my mini-cliffhanger gift to you, the ending was in no way what I expected and I am still heartbroken for Eden’s story even days later. I urge you to give this book a chance to play with your mind a little. I challenge you to get ahead of Mary and figure out her ending.