Her father was standing stiffly at the window and her mother was packing a small suitcase. Fran’s heart raced as her mind crashed through the possibilities of news.
‘Is it…’ Fran chewed at her thumb nail.
‘The police received a phone call from Langford,’ said her father.
‘Langford. Langford? But that’s nowhere near home…our old home,’ said Fran.
‘We just assumed she would go back there. In fact it’s 500 kays in the opposite direction. Which makes me think…’ Her father sat down heavily on a footstool.
‘So, is it Carli? Is she coming home?’
Twins Fran and Carli and their parents have moved to a town so small, the train no longer stops there. Neither girl is thrilled about the move, but Carli at least seems to settle down when she meets local girl, Mel. Mel disappears and two days later, so does Carli. They are not the only disappearances. Over the preceding year several others have also vanished. Fran’s parents leave Fran home in the care of her aunt, while they investigate a possible sighting of Carli. Fran discovers there is something strange about the old station. An old man, Bill, warns her to stay away but she is determined to find her sister. She struggles to understand what is real, what is ‘other’ and how it connects to the disappearance of Carli and the others.
Fran’s last words to her sister were ‘get a life’ and it seems that Carli has done just that. Fran’s very normal life moves into the realm of ghostly apparitions and a mystery train that roars through the station at night time. The Vanishings is like the train that features in the story. It leaves the station and accelerates until the action is so fast it’s almost a blur. It’s a wild ride. Adults are removed from the scene – her parents by their search for Carli, and her aunt by alcohol and indifference – and Fran is on her own, with only her dog, Sherpa, for company. Twin telepathy works differently here, seemingly allowing Fran to travel where she shouldn’t logically be able to, rather than being able to ‘communicate’ directly to her twin as is often the case. There is no clear indication of the age of the twins, but they seem to be on the brink of teenage. Recommended for upper primary readers.
The Vanishings, by Michael Panckridge
Black Dog Books 2008