The Van Apfel Girls are Gone by Felicity McLean

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The Van Apfel Girls are Gone by Felicity McLean

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Category: Thrillers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Luke Marlowe
Reviewed by Luke Marlowe
Summary: A hot, tense thriller set in the midst of a scorching Australian summer, The Van Apfel Girls Are Gone is provocative, gripping, and sure to get under your skin.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 304 Date: June 2019
Publisher: Point Blank
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1786076076

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When Tikka Molloy was eleven and one-sixth years old, the Van Apfel sisters disappeared. In the long hot summer of 1992, in an isolated suburb of Australia surrounded by Bushland, the girls vanished during the school's Showstopper concert at the riverside amphitheatre. Did they run away? Were they taken? While the search for the sisters united the small community, they were never found. Returning home years later, Tikka must make sense of that strange moment in time – of the summer that shaped her, and the girls she never forgot.

As a journalist, the work of Felicity McLean has appeared in The Good Weekend, The Daily Telegraph, and The Big Issue. She has previously ghost written celebrity autobiographies, and The Van Apfel Girls are Gone is her first novel.

There is something in the very nature of Australia that lends it to stories about mysterious disappearances – from the cult read Picnic at Hanging Rock through to the tragic story of Azaria Chamberlain. The vast untouched bushland, combined with the huge amounts of dangerous wildlife, lends Australia an edge that is ripe to be explored in fiction – and one that author Felicity McLean explores in this engrossing, balanced and compelling novel.

Recounting the events of a summer in the blazing Australian sun, there is a real sense of heat to this read – and all of the frayed nerves and sweaty nights that come with summers that feel almost unending. Added to that is the heat of teenage hormones – anger, confusion and sex wrapped up in developing, confused bodies and led by altered, chemically-driven minds. Having the young Tikka reveal the events of that summer allows the reader a direct entry into the life of those girls and, knowing as little as she does, allows them to be fully engrossed in the mystery of the plot – not passive bystanders but actively involved in the events of the story. The sections containing the adult Tikka allow a little distance – and are also a fascinating way of exploring just how the disappearance shaped both the life of Tikka and that of the community she grew up in – a stubborn stain that refuses to be removed no matter how hard those who can see it may wish.

The hazy heat combined with the driving, tension-filled plot ensures that this is a gripping read – I definitely think it's one best suited to reading in summer months, but even when reading on a cold February evening, I felt some of the unrelenting Australian heat creeping in. Atmosphere and character rule supreme here – and whilst at times I'd perhaps I'd have liked more answers to the plot and a little more urgency at points, this is a read that, much like the summer it's set in, will linger long after it should have gone…

Many thanks to the publishers for the copy, and for further reading I recommend Bonfire by Krysten Ritter – another read that explores a hometown mystery, a strong female lead character, and a cleverly drawn sense of threat.

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Buy The Van Apfel Girls are Gone by Felicity McLean at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Van Apfel Girls are Gone by Felicity McLean at


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