Thursday, December 5, 2013

After I'm Gone

I love a good mystery, so the description of Laura Lipmann’s new novel, After I’m Gone, grabbed me from the get-go:

Dead is dead. Missing is gone.

When Felix Brewer meets nineteen-year-old Bernadette "Bambi" Gottschalk at a Valentine's Day dance in 1959, he charms her with wild promises, some of which he actually keeps. Thanks to his lucrative—if not all legal—businesses, she and their three little girls live in luxury. But on the Fourth of July in 1976, Bambi's comfortable world implodes when Felix, facing prison, 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 disappears ten years to the day after Felix went on the lam, everyone assumes she's left to join her old lover—until her remains are discovered in a secluded park.

Now, twenty-six years later, 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, greed, and longing stretching over five decades. And at its center is the man who, though long gone, has never been forgotten by the five women who loved him: the enigmatic Felix Brewer.

Felix Brewer left five women behind. Now there are four. Does at least one of them know the truth?

The novel is written in a way that I always enjoy: chapters going back and forth between glances back at historical moments which gradually begin to lay out the case and shed light on the characters/suspects and present day experiences and encounters by the sleuth on the case (in this case, Roberto “Sandy” Sanchez.)

At about the half-way point in the novel I smugly assumed I had figured out “who dunit.” As the next few chapters unfolded I grew more and more confident in my brilliant deduction and knowledge of human character. I had pinpointed exactly the person who had motive, means and opportunity.

Or so I thought. I must hand it to Lipmann, I fell for the obvious hook, line and sinker! She got me with a twist, and I’m so glad I was wrong. I will recommend this novel to all my friends and to Laura Lipmann I say, “Bravo!” I can’t wait to read more of her work.