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. Read an excerpt of After I'm Gone.
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.
See what others on the TLC book tour thought - full schedule can be found here.
"Since her debut in 1997, Laura Lippman has been heralded for her thoughtful, timely crime novels set in her beloved hometown of Baltimore. She is the author of twenty works of fiction, including eleven Tess Monaghan mysteries. She lives in Baltimore, New Orleans, and New York City with her family." You can keep up with Laura Lippman on Facebook and on Twitter.