After I’m Gone – Laura Lippman
This is another crime novel, but it it not really a crime novel that is just the structure used to explore characters and relationships. This was recommended by Barb Sampson at a fund raising book night – she does a great job of describing the book with enough detail, but without giving anything away, so you can decide it you want to read it or not.
Here’s the blurb …
When Felix Brewer meets nineteen-year-old Bernadette ‘Bambi’ Gottschalk at a Valentine’s Dance in 1959, he charms her with wild promises, some of which he actually keeps. Thanks to his lucrative if not always legal businesses, she and their three little girls live in luxury. But on the Fourth of July, 1976, Bambi’s world implodes when Felix, newly convicted and facing prison, mysteriously vanishes.
Though Bambi has no idea where her husband – or his money – might be, she suspects one woman does: his devoted young mistress, Julie. When Julie herself disappears ten years to the day that Felix went on the lam, everyone assumes she’s left to join her old lover – until her remains are found in a secluded wooded park.
Now, twenty-six years after Julie went missing, Roberto ‘Sandy’ Sanchez, a retired Baltimore detective working cold cases for some extra cash, is investigating her murder. What he discovers is a tangled web of bitterness, jealousy, resentment and greed stretching over the three decades and three generations that connect these five very different women. And at the center of every woman’s story is the man who, though long gone, has never been forgotten: the enigmatic Felix Brewer.
Somewhere between the secrets and lies connecting past and present, Sandy could find the explosive truth…
I have to say I was surprised by who was the murderer. Having said that, this novel is more about five women – the wife, the mistress and three daughters – being left behind when Felix disappears. Bambi (terrible name) struggles to keep up appearances, the daughters – particularly the youngest Michelle – grow up without a father figure, and Julie – who out of all of the women copes best with Felix’s departure – is prepared to throw it all away and join him in exile. The characters are fabulous – very well-written – they are selfish, self-centred and complicated. I had little sympathy for any of them (apart from the detective working the cold case).
It is a story that develops slowly – one of my friends complained that nothing happened. And while that is true to some extent, there is not much action – it is about character development and ordinary lives turned upside down.
I didn’t think this novel would be to my taste, but I was very pleasantly surprised.
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