The Van Apfel Girls are Gone by Felicity McLean hooked me in with its all-too-familiar north-west of Sydney 1990s setting and the missing girls premise reminiscent of Joan Lindsay’s classic Picnic at Hanging Rock.
Here’s the blurb:
Tikka Molloy was eleven and one-sixth years old during the long hot summer of 1992 – the summer the Van Apfel sisters disappeared. Hannah, beautiful Cordelia and Ruth vanished during the night of the school’s Showstopper concert at the amphitheatre by the river, surrounded by encroaching bushland.
Now, years later, Tikka has returned home to try and make sense of the summer that shaped her, and the girls that she never forgot.
Blackly comic, sharply observed and wonderfully endearing, this is Picnic at Hanging Rock for a new generation, a haunting coming-of-age story with a shimmering, unexplained mystery at its heart.
The tension is so tight you can snap it; the hot, summery childhood backdrop simmers with exasperation, longing, boredom and mystery. The story moves cleverly between past and present, seeking answers to questions both past and present, but one warning: Don’t expect them all to be answered.