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Dead is dead. Missing is gone . . .
When Felix Brewer vanishes on July 4, 1976, to avoid serving a fifteen-year prison sentence for mail fraud, he leaves behind five devastated women: his sophisticated wife, Bambi, their three lovely daughters, and his devoted young mistress, Julie. Though Bambi has no idea where her husband or his money might be, she suspects his mistress does. When Julie disappears ten years to the day after Felix went on the lam, everyone assumes she's left ...
Dead is dead. Missing is gone . . .
When Felix Brewer vanishes on July 4, 1976, to avoid serving a fifteen-year prison sentence for mail fraud, he leaves behind five devastated women: his sophisticated wife, Bambi, their three lovely daughters, and his devoted young mistress, Julie. Though Bambi has no idea where her husband or his money might be, she suspects his mistress does. 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 enigmatic man who, though long gone, has never been forgotten by the women who loved him.
Felix Brewer left five women behind. Now there are four. Does one of them know the truth?
The novel slips in and out of each eventful decade, from the fateful Valentine's Day of 1959 when Felix and young, fresh-faced Bambi first met, to Felix's unannounced departure and the aftermath thereof, and finally, to Sandy's determined investigation. The toll Felix's desertion takes on Bambi—both financially and emotionally—as well as the way each of his well-fleshed daughters are affected, will raise great sympathy within readers, but will inevitably keep them on edge, itching to find out: how did Felix manage to leave without a trace, and why did he go without seeing to the well-being of his beloved family? I'm never sure whether I am going to like a Laura Lippman novel when it is missing Tess Monaghan or for that matter, when it has Tess Monaghan, but as long as it is still in her beloved Baltimore, it's all right with me. Laura Lippman is a superior storyteller and this is a deep and rich mystery. This is a great thriller, a bit demanding as a read but quite satisfying as well, and it's made me reconsider this talented author
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Posted February 21, 2014
Dead is dead. Missing is gone.
Inspired by the Salsbury fraud scandal of the 1970s, After I'm Gone explores how the enigmatic Felix Brewer's sudden disappearance echoes through lives of his wife, daughters, and mistress—the five women he loved and left behind. Both a legal thriller and dazzling sashay through a span of decades, Lippman's newest novel is elaborate, emotionally charged, and deeply probing.
In present-day Baltimore, as retired cop Sandy Sanchez reviews a cold case involving the murder of Julie Saxony—Felix's woman on the side—he notices there are discrepancies from every angle, from every testimony, and he can't help but grow intrigued by the seductive, unsolved story of Felix Brewer, his family, and how it could all be connected to a dead Julie Saxony. The novel slips in and out of each eventful decade, from the fateful Valentine's Day of 1959 when Felix and young, fresh-faced Bambi first met, to Felix's unannounced departure and the aftermath thereof, and finally, to Sandy's determined investigation. The toll Felix's desertion takes on Bambi—both financially and emotionally—as well as the way each of his well-fleshed daughters are affected, will raise great sympathy within readers, but will inevitably keep them on edge, itching to find out: how did Felix manage to leave without a trace, and why did he go without seeing to the well-being of his beloved family?
After I'm Gone is such a well crafted, well explicated mystery novel. It combines an elaborate, arduous tangle of lies, secrets, and even sacrifice, with a sharp, fast-paced procession of revelations. These continuous shifts, shocking discoveries, and impending truths never stop surprising you until the very end, which I think is a fabulous ploy. It's one of those books where you think you have everything figured out until—bam!—something happens halfway through and changes the entire plot, and then, at the last few chapters, the same thing happens again—and again, and again—bam! bam! bam! The intimate, perplexing glimpses into the lives of the Brewer women through the years of a husbandless and fatherless development really bring the story to life. The way Felix's betrayal affects his daughters' marriages, senses of dignity, and identities transforms this high-stake detective novel into one with human disparities—faults of the flesh—and that's what made it so powerful for me.
There's a purposefully vague, but consistently dark and pressing tone to the novel that's both eventful and stylistically entertaining. Readers remain in the dark about Felix's character, which makes him even more puzzling; but then again, it doesn't really matter because it's his reverberations that make up this book, not the man himself. This is the first Laura Lippman mystery I've read, but based off her commanding voice and complicated, wrenching storylines, she's an author I'm now more than eager to try again.
Pros: Rich in historical detail and legalese // Addictive // Reminiscent of the extravagance and flair of the '50s and '60s // Contrived, complicated, original plot // Bambi and daughters are so well portrayed, so lifelike // Mystery seems impossible to solve, and remains unpredictable even until the very end // Weaves complex emotions about family and love within the crime // Will surprise you multiple times—not your average linear whodunnit // Thrilling, engaging
Cons: Sandy isn't likable // Too detailed and slow-moving at times // Timeline gets confusing to keep up with
Verdict: Sandy Sanchez doesn't know what he's in for when he takes on two details of a cold case that at first glance, other than the painfully obvious and quickly dismissed suspicions, have no plausible relation: the untimely appearance of Felix Brewer's mistress's dead body, and the means of survival the man's family turned to in his wake. Equal parts murder mystery and narrative family drama, After I'm Gone contains surprisingly touching wisdom about the tragedy of idealism and how nobody, no matter how beautiful their face or honest their soul, ever really gets what they want. Full of unstable alibis, tenderly guarded secrets, and the buildup of multiple unexpected but long-dreaded twists, Laura Lippman's latest crime novel provides soul-searing, electrifying insight on not only greed, selfishness, and cowardice, but also on identity, the gray areas between marriage and unfaithfulness, and the meaning of fatherly love.
Rating: 8 out of 10 hearts (4 stars): An engaging read that will be worth your while; highly recommended.
Source: Complimentary copy provided by publisher via tour publicist in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you, Harper Collins and TLC!).
4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 25, 2014
Laura Lippman writes suspense novels with great characters. Her last book, And When She Was Bad, told the story of a suburban soccer mom who ran an escort service. Her newest, After I'm Gone, tells the story of the disappearance of Felix Brewer, a man who was a bookie, ran a strip club and when he is convicted in connection with his criminal activities, disappears, leaving behind a wife, three young daughters and a mistress.
When his mistress disappears nearly ten years later to the day, questions once again arise about Felix. Did he send for his mistress Julie, the woman he left his only legitimate business to when he disappeared? Why did he leave no money behind for his wife Bambi and his three daughters?
Julia's dead body turns up in the woods near Felix and Bambi's home, and this cold case ends up in the lap of Sandy Sanchez, an investigator/consultant for the District Attorney's office. Sandy chooses to pursue whatever cases he thinks he can solve, and Julie Saxony's intrigues him.
He meets with her sister Andrea, who is believed to have helped Julie help Felix disappear. Andrea knows more than she is telling, but does she know who killed her sister?
The story moves back in forth in time, from 1976 when Felix disappears, to 1991 when Julie's body turns up, to 2012, when Sandy begins his investigation. We get to see Bambi go from a teen in the throes of young love with Felix, to a lonely wife waiting for her husband to come home from the club to mom to three girls to a desperate woman struggling to maintain some kind of life for her girls to a fiercely protective mom and grandmother.
We see Felix and Bambi's girls grow up- Linda and Rachel, who remember their father, and Michelle, who was too young when Felix disappeared. Linda has a good job, marries and has children and seems to have settled into a life she likes.
Rachel marries a guy she met in college. He was from a wealthy family who were none to happy to have Rachel and her notorious family story incorporated into their family. Her marriage doesn't work out, and Rachel ends up back home for awhile. Michelle seems to be floating through life, with no career or husband.
While the the women's stories over the years are fascinating, Sandy has an intriguing one as well. He and his wife have a son, who ended up in an institution. His wife dies, and as she had a relationship with their son and Sandy did not, he is all alone.
After Sandy interviews a woman who is caring for her debilitated husband, he thinks about his life. One of the saddest lines in the entire book concerns his wife Mary and son Bobby, now an adult."Would Sandy have traded for more time with Mary if it had meant being with someone who wasn't really Mary? Would he have traded Bobby-as-he-was, now in his thirties and lost to him, for a normal Bobby who died at age five? You can rewrite your life all you want, Sandy thought. It's still a play where everyone dies in the end." Another line that got to me was "They say you're only as happy as your least happy child". Boy, does that line resonate for any parent.
The suspense builds slowly, and throughout most of the novel, it remains in the back of the reader's mind as you get lost in the characters' lives. As Sandy closes in on Julie's killer, the tension builds and you remember, yes, it is a murder mystery that needs to be solved. And the solution is a doozy; after a few red herrings, it all comes together in a nail-biting conclusion.
Fans of Lippman's novels featuring Private Investigator Tess Monaghan will be pleased to see a cameo of her here, and maybe looking forward to Sandy and Tess working together in a future book.
I loved the characters, the story and the resolution, and once again Lippman has hit it out of the park.
2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 18, 2014
Posted February 17, 2014
Posted February 27, 2014
Laura Lippman is known for her wonderful series featuring p.i. Tess Monaghan, among other terrific books. So I started this book believing it to be a murder mystery, especially as it begins with the discovery of a dead body. But then it appeared that I was wrong, that it was instead a very interesting character study, or rather ‘studies,’ dealing as it does with a dysfunctional family, the wife and three daughters (as well as their significant others) of a fascinating man, Felix Brewer, rarely seen in these pages, the husband and father of these women, and others who were close to him. These latter included the lawyer and bail bondsman who were his best friends since their Baltimore high school days, and Julie, the younger mistress with whom he had cheated on his wife for several years as the story opens, which story encompasses a 35-year period.
Felix met Bernadette (“Bambi”) when she was 19 years old at a Valentine’s Day dance and quickly swept her off her feet, marrying her soon after. (Valentine’s Day, New Year’s Eve, when Felix and Bambi married, and July 4th are significant dates in the story.) A bookmaker, he keeps her in very comfortable surroundings until he is arrested, convicted, and about to start serving a prison term when, on July 4th, 1976, he vanishes, with no clue as to his plans or his whereabouts, leaving his wife relatively impoverished, his mistress slightly less so. Ten years later, to the day, Julie vanishes as well, her dead body found soon after. The present-day narration begins 26 years later, when Roberto (“Sandy”) Sanchez, the Cuban-born retired Baltimore cop who, as a consultant working on cold cases for the police department, picks up the murder file.
If all this was was a book encompassing character studies of each of these, it would very interesting reading. But that would be selling Ms. Lippman quite short: She has rendered a fascinating mystery, dealing with Brewer’s disappearance, his mistress’ murder, and the complex stories of the lives of these people, the detective on the case as well as all the others who make up the suspect group, each rendered in fine detail. Infidelity, in several manifestations, plays a large role in the plot. The author has fashioned an ending that you won’t see coming, even when you’re sure you do. (Parenthetically, the tie-in to Tess Monaghan near the book’s end was a delight.) As with all Ms. Lippman’s books, this one too is highly recommended.
1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 25, 2014
Posted August 27, 2014
Posted August 19, 2014
I'm a long time Laura Lippman fan. My favourites are the Tess Monaghan novels, but Lippman's last few books have been stand alones. The latest is After I'm Gone.
Sandy is a retired Baltimore cop, currently on contract with the BPD as a consultant, handling cold cases. When searching his files for the next case to handle, a picture of dancer Juliet Romeo falls out. and the next case is chosen.
Juliet was the girlfriend of Felix Brewer in 1976. She was found dead ten years later and her murder was never solved. Felix also had a wife named Bambi and three daughters. When the feds decided Felix was going to prison for fraud, he decided he couldn't do the time - and disappeared. He left behind the two women and three girls, all who never knew where he went or what happened to him. Twenty six years later Sandy re-opens the case.
Lippman's story flips from past to present and from the viewpoint of each of the women throughout the years. We're there at the beginning, meet the girls as they have grown, the women as they have aged and are with Sandy every step of the way as he explores the present, trying to find answers in the past. Although no one is very forthcoming.
Lippman has created a rich story. The characters are very real, their emotions and actions tangible. Although I wondered 'whodunit', I was just as intrigued by the lives of these women and how Felix, even when absent, affected each of their paths. The secrets, lies, loves and hopes of each character was very well portrayed and explored. But the character I enjoyed the most by far was Sandy. He too has a rich back story that fleshed out his character. He's not a super sleuth solving everything with clever (and impossible) deductions, but is instead a very human, fallible man determined to find answers. I liked his voice and his way of thinking.
I was pretty sure where the story was headed (and was quite happy about the journey there) when Lippman threw in one last twist, just to keep readers on their toes. Lippman herself lives in the Baltimore area which adds greatly to her settings and descriptions.
When I finished the last pages of the book, I stopped and wondered about someone 'disappearing'. Is it possible? Are they ever successful at staying gone? And then I read the author's notes and discovered that the novel uses the true case of Julius Salsbury as inspiration.
Devoted Laura Lippman fans will enjoy Crow's cameo (and Tess's too). By the final pages, I was thinking to myself that Sandy is a character I'd like to see more of. I may just get my wish - Lippman's next book, Hush, is due out in February 2015.
Posted July 28, 2014
Posted June 20, 2014
Laura Lippman has written a smooth little mystery inspired by a true case (although not based on it). While the "who done it?" aspect is entertaining and captivating, it is her characters that really make this book sing.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 6, 2014
Posted April 26, 2014
Good, intriguing thriller. Whodunit mystery that keeps you guessing. Moves around a lot from decade to decade and person to person. Have to keep the dates straight in your head. Not many clues along the way so the end was pretty surprising. But well written enough to enjoy and keep reading pretty quickly to the end.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 4, 2014
Have read 16 of Laura Lippman's novels in the past ten years, and she is both current and insightful in her stories, bringing Baltimore alive in her narrative as if it is a recurring character. I was hesitant with this new release after reading some reviews, but am glad I didn't let any negative comments dissuade me. Rather than find it confusing as others claimed to, I found the storyline even more engaging as each character was depicted at various times ranging from 1959 to 2013. The writing was clear and details precise, as it all was cleverly woven together by the end. Adding the familiar and affable character Tess Monaghan was a welcome touch. I enjoy this author's work and look forward to more, thus most certainly recommend.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 27, 2014
Posted March 23, 2014
Even though you do not love all the people in the book, the story was very good. Twists and turns that have you thinking the plot
will go one way then it goes in a different direction
Posted March 21, 2014
Posted March 18, 2014
This is the first book by this author that I've read in a long time. Was glad it was a "stand alone" book since I haven't kept up with her books. The characters were interesting and their reactions to various situations were plausible. Greed on the part of two key characters was the precipitating "sin" that caused all the heartache and pain. The ending was a bit unexpected but made sense. So if you like books to tie up all the loose ends, you will find that this book offers a satisfying ending.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 14, 2014
Posted March 7, 2014
"After I'm Gone" by Laura Lippman was one of my favorites. I have read her before but this is by far her best. The ending was surprising. I would highly recommend this book!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.