Susanita (bardhlul) wrote in 50bookchallenge,

Book 15 - After I'm Gone (Laura Lippman)

When Felix Brewer meets 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 all legal—businesses, she and their three little girls live in luxury. But on the Fourth of July, 1976, Bambi’s comfortable 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 mistress, Julie. When Julie 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 eventually found.

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 stretching over three decades that connects five intriguing women. And at the center is the missing man Felix Brewer.

Somewhere between the secrets and lies connecting past and present, Sandy will find the truth. And when he does, no one will ever be the same.

I attended a book signing a few months ago when this was first published, and the author's remarks focused on the difference between "inspired by" and "based on" when it comes to story ideas. (She also ably handled audience questions both mundane and profound.) This book was in fact "inspired by" a scenario that occurred in Baltimore in the 1970s, when local numbers runner Julius Salisbury disappeared on the eve of going to jail on a gambling charge. Both Salisbury and Brewer left behind a wife, three daughters, and a long-term mistress; however, the similarity ends there.
Though Lippman “solves” the mystery or Brewer’s disappearance, in real life Salisbury remains missing.

The book focuses as much on the impact his disappearance had on the women he left behind as it does on the investigation of the various crimes. Through flashbacks she covers the Brewers’ early relationship and Felix’s disappearance, and she weaves those events seamlessly with the lingering effects of his absence in the current day as revealed through Sandy’s inquiries and interviews. There is just enough local color to add texture, and the story is well-paced and credible. One daughter is a stereotypical “princess,” and another daughter indulges in too much boring internal dialogue, but on balance the characters are well-drawn both individually and interactively. I especially like Sandy and look forward to seeing him again, possibly in the next Tess Monaghan novel.
Tags: mystery

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