Sunday, February 16, 2014
AFTER I'M GONE BY LAURA LIPPMAN
After I'm Gone: A Novel by Laura Lippman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
After I'm Gone by Laura Lippman is a February 2014 William Morrow publication. I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher and Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
Felix Brewer meets his future wife, Bernadette "Bambi" Gottschalk at a Valentine's Day dance that he and his friend crashed back in 1959. Felix had big plans and promised his wife they would be rich. Well, he did become financially comfortable for awhile, but he didn't make his money the old fashioned way by earning it. He was involved in illegal gambling and in 1976 he was arrested. Looking at a long sentence, Felix decides to leave and go into hiding. The dilemma is he will be leaving Bambi and his three daughters alone and they will have to learn to live a bit more conservatively. That's not all though. Felix has a girlfriend as well and Julie is quite upset about recent developments. As a consolation, Felix signs over a coffee shop to Julie, which was probably his only legitimate business.
Ten years pass by while Bambi struggles to raise her daughters and maintain some financial comfort. She remains close with some of her old friends, her attorney and his wife especially. Then ten years to the day that Felix left, his former mistress disappears. Eventually, they find her body, but her murder is never solved.
Now it is 2012 and former Baltimore detective, Sandy Sanchez is working as a consultant, mainly investigating cold cases. When he runs across a file on Julie he suddenly recalls the case of Felix Brewer and decides he would like to find out who murdered his mistress.
Sandy could never have imagined the can of worms he was about to open. There were years and years of bitterness, jealousy, resentment, anger, misplaced loyalties and betrayals which may have lead someone to commit murder.
At the core of the story is Felix Brewer. His actions set in motion a chain of events that brought significant changes to five women. Bambi was left practically broke after Felix left, but that is not the way Felix wanted it. In fact, it's a mystery as to where all of Felix's money was. Bambi's daughters were also at the center of everything as they had to make adjustments to life without their father. These events shaped each of them in a different way.
Then there was Julie. She believed that Felix was going to take her with him all the way up until the last moment when he didn't. She changed after that. Many who knew her before Felix claimed that she turned mean after he left her behind. But why did someone murder her ten years after Felix disappeared?
This was a very absorbing tale. One cowardly, selfish man that can't stand up and accept his punishment leave five people behind that will suffer the effects of his actions for the rest of their lives. It takes a dedicated detective to unravel long buried secrets and lies. Family dramas, dysfunction, unrequited love, scandal and an incredible shocker of an ending as the tragic truth finally unfolds.
Each character is well drawn and believable. Bambi still maintains her quiet strength and as much dignity as she can muster and makes sure her girls still get the educations and extras they would have if Felix hadn't been convicted. Each daughter has been through difficult times and heartbreak, but they all settled somewhat. I really loved Sandy Sanchez. He was a one smart cookie. We learn he is a widower and is still adjusting to life alone, dealing with regrets and will decide to continue spreading his wings with new endeavors in the future. I loved the story being told from different eras of time beginning with Felix and Bambi meeting in 1959 then skipping to 1976 when Felix leaves, to 1986 when Julie is murdered and then to various times over the years since the murder to the present 2012 investigation. We really get to know the characters that way as we see them in the various stages of their lives. While this is a murder mystery , there is also a tint of women's fiction and drama as well. I'm also a sucker for cold case mysteries.
I also found it interesting that the Brewer family was based in part on an actual family that went through a similar experience, but with no murder involved.
Overall this one gets an A+