Wednesday, May 18, 2016

After I'm Gone

How do you write a crime novel where the crime both sets up the work and doesn't matter to the plot? Laura Lippman managed this task with After I'm Gone.  Felix Brewer disappeared rather than go to jail in 1976.  He left behind his wife and three daughters, and the mistress who drove him to Philadelphia.  A decade later, his former mistress disappeared as well, and someone finds her body in a park in September, 2001.

It's the coldest of cold cases when Sandy Sanchez picks up the file, and his current-day investigations alternate with chronological flashback chapters.  We see Felix, a small time criminal, sweep Bambi off her feet at a dance, and the early years of their marriage marked mainly by Bambi's mother's disapproval.  After Felix leaves, Bambi leans on Felix's lawyer and her two teenage daughters, muddling through and making excuses for her spoiled youngest.  Each woman narrates a few chapters, with distinct voices and perspectives on their family situation.  Overwhelmed Bambi, brisk Linda, analytical Rachel, and spoiled Michelle each show us a few days here and there over the course of fifty years, leaving subtle clues to the murder's surprising identity.

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