After I'm Gone by Laura LippmanPublished: February 11, 2014Publisher: William MorrowPages: 352Received for honest review from publisher via TLC Book ToursThe acclaimed New York Times bestselling author of The Most Dangerous Thing, I'd Know You Anywhere, and What the Dead Know returns with an addictive story that explores how one man's disappearance echoes through the lives of the five women he left behind—his wife, his daughters, and his mistress
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?
I love this line: Dead is dead. Missing is gone.
From the beginning you know that Felix is missing and Julie is dead. But is Felix really just gone? We dive into the lives of Felix Brewer's family right from the beginning. And we know that he is missing and that he left them behind to pick up the pieces of the life he walked away from.
The chapters alternate between characters and moments in time. Flashbacks to when Felix and Bambi met and present day with the lives of his children. I actually enjoyed that the book wasn't told from just one point of view and that it had multiple characters putting in their thoughts and moments that all combine to tell such an interesting story. I thought it would get complicated, but it somehow works to make the story that much better. I appreciated the addition of the retired cop working the cold case of Julie's death, because his chapters help to unravel the mystery of the Brewer family.
I loved that you had point of views from even the girlfriend before she goes missing. And that you get to see how Felix affected each and every woman in his life - both before and after his disappearance. I think seeing how his wife handled everything versus how each daughter handled not having their father around made you understand they had to cope and move on. But I think the not knowing whether he was still alive or not was the hardest part. How could someone just walk away from it all? How could someone leave their family behind to try and figure out how to move on? I guess that is the price you pay to be married to a gambler/bookie/loan shark.
But the best part of the book was figuring out who killed Julie, the mistress. She was left behind just as much as the family was, so he wasn't playing favourites. Was it a hired hit? Did Felix come back to get rid of the one person who might know too much? Honestly, I had a few theories in my mind from about half way through the book and even in the last section I thought I had it all figured out. The few twists made me change my mind twice and even then I still hadn't pinned it down to the right character. That makes a great mystery book in my eyes.
In the end, I didn't find that you get to know Felix very well, but you know what kind of guy he was supposed to have been. I enjoyed getting to know his family and my favourite characters were Michelle (the youngest daughter) and Sandy (the retired cop who was investigating the cold case of Julie's murder). Michelle only really knows "of" her father as she was too young to remember him, but his absence affects her almost more than the older daughters and this makes her character interesting.
This was my first Lippman novel and I'm happy to say I'll be checking out the Tess Monaghan novels that everyone has been speaking so highly. And if I hadn't read some of the hype about this book, I would never have known that when Tess appears at the end of this book in a chapter with Sandy, I wouldn't have known that she was just a quick crossover character. I hope this means that Sandy will crossover into the Tess series, because his character was great and I'd like to learn more about his current life.
Overall, I really enjoyed the way this book was presented and how the story flows from the minds of each character and flips through memories and the present. It made for a very intriguing story.
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