Published by William Morrow
Publication date: February 11, 2014
Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Suspense
Laura Lippman is back with a runaway bookie, the wife he adores, his three daughters, and his stripper girlfriend. In her latest, After I’m Gone, Felix Brewer is indicted in 1976 on gambling charges and decides his constitution is not made for prison so he jumps bail. The novel opens with his escape to an undisclosed location and a private plane. Helping him escape and taking possession of a mysterious suitcase is his mistress, Julie. For Felix, his troubles are over but for everyone else in his life they are just beginning. Money that was supposed to go to his wife and daughters never does, leaving the free-spending Bambi dependent on his lawyer’s kindness. The only person who seems to benefit is Julie, who gets ownership of his bar. That is, until 1986 when she goes missing. When her bones are found in a wooded area in 2001 the case is reopened, with no results. It is not until 2012, almost 40 years after Felix disappeared, that a private investigator named Roberto “Sandy” Sanchez, decides to start from scratch to get answers to all these mysteries.
As neatly as a Las Vegas dealer, Lippman shuffles the past and the present with all the cards for each character thrown in and plays them out slowly with Sanchez’s current investigation as the wild card. And even though Felix is long gone we are vividly shown what his absence has done to the women in his life. His daughters, Linda, Rachel and Michelle each cope in their own way, building lives using the survival traits they acquired after their father (and all his money) disappeared. Linda is the hard driving eldest, determined to have it all—the perfect career and family. For Rachel, the middle child, there is the desire for harmony. She is the peacemaker in the family but is unable to assert herself enough to get what she wants. Baby Michelle, who inherited her mother’s jaw-dropping beauty, is the little girl lost who lives her life playing to a father she never knew. For her there is no alternative to being the center of attention nor are men anything more than fools to be used to get what she wants.
After I’m Gone looks at many themes- love, fidelity, truth…but at its heart this is a mystery story. A mystery story populated by the ghost of Felix Brewer and the consequences of his actions. Lippman’s sharp writing and characters that veer between sympathetic to unlikable combine with an ending that will catch you off guard.