Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Book Review: AFTER I'M GONE

HARPCOLLINS/William Morrow – @HarperCollins; @WmMorrowBks

AUTHOR: Laura Lippman
ISBN: 978-0-06-208341-8; paperback (August 12, 2014)
352pp, B&W, $14.99 U.S.

After I'm Gone is a 2014 crime novel from Laura Lippman, The New York Times bestselling author of What the Dead Know.  A paperback original, After I'm Gone is the story of how one man’s disappearance echoes through the lives of the five women he left behind:  his wife, his three daughters, and his mistress.

Felix Brewer saw Bernadette “Bambi” Gottschalk at a Valentine’s Dance in 1959, and it was love at first sight.  Felix charmed Bambi with wild promises, and because of his lucrative, but largely illegal business ventures, he was able to keep some of those promises.  Felix, Bambi and their three little girls:  Linda, Rachel, and Michelle lived in luxury.  However, Felix eventually ended up convicted and facing prison time.  On July 4, 1976, Felix mysteriously vanished.

Felix also had a mistress, Julie Saxony a.k.a. Juliet Romeo.  Everyone, including Bambi, thought Julie knew where Felix or his money was.  However, on July 4 1986, Julie disappears.  Her remains are eventually found on or about September 23, 2001.

On March 2, 2012, twenty-six years after Julie first went missing,  Roberto “Sandy” Sanchez, a retired Baltimore detective who works as a consultant for extra cash, opens a cold case, investigating Julie's murder.  Sandy is about to enter a tangled web that connects five intriguing women, with Felix Brewer at the center.  Sandy is determined to find the truth, but can he unravel about five decades of history and three decades of intrigue?

The mystery of Felix Brewer's whereabouts is really not especially important to After I'm Gone.  The murder of Julie Saxony makes this book crime fiction and a murder mystery, but the whodunit is not as important as the women of Felix Brewer.  Yes, it's the women of the missing man who are crucial to this novel.

The truth is that After I'm Gone is an exceptional work of fiction and a superb read, beyond being a good murder mystery and semi-police procedural.  I have read and listened to critics who have described things as “delicious.”  I didn't every think that I would describe something as delicious in a review, but...  The women of After I'm Gone are delicious characters.  My imagination dined on them for 300-plus pages and could have gobbled another 300 pages.

There is nothing about this book title or about its cover and graphic design that suggests the surprising tragedy and shocking plots twists that Lippman offers in this hugely engrossing novel.  If this year's Pulitzer Prize for Fiction winner is a better read than After I'm Gone, it will have to have been conceived by a divine mind.


Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux

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