Best new crime fiction: Disappearance, paranoia and the law
Felicity McLean, Rebecca Kauffman, Chris Whitaker, Michelle Dunne and Scott Turow
The disappearance of a child is every parent’s worst nightmare, but what if the child disappears to escape from a nightmare? Opening in Baltimore in the present day, but largely set in Australia in the early 1990s, Felicity McLean’s accomplished debut The Van Apfel Girls Are Gone (Point Blank, £8.99) is narrated by 12-year-old Tikka Malloy, who lives across the street from the Van Apfel girls.
The story begins with distressed 13-year-old Cordelia “Cordie” Van Apfel emerging from the Outback into the Sydney suburb from which she disappeared the week previously – but where has Cordie been? And where are her sisters, Ruth and Hannah? Curious and creative, Tikka blunders through the story as our perceptive but innocent guide as she leads us through a suburban labyrinth in which a cruel monster hides in plain sight. It’s a stunning piece of literary ventriloquism from McLean, who gives Tikka an offbeat but wholly believable voice (“Cordie kept strange, private things curled up in her carelessness”) as she delivers a child’s-eye view of domestic horrors reminiscent of Megan Abbott’s The End of Everything (2010).