Laura Lippman, After I'm Gone. New York: William Morrow, 2014. 334 pages. ISBN 9780062309563.
Laura Lippman's latest novel, After I'm Gone, demonstrates how pernicious lies, secrecy, and deception can be to one's family and relationships. The story focuses on five women who have mourned the loss of their respective husband, father, and lover for decades. Felix Brewer runs away from everyone he loves to avoid conviction and imprisonment for gambling charges. He made arrangements to help and financially provide for both his lover and his family, but those plans go awry and the reader can only speculate throughout much of the book what might have happened to his fortune.
Felix's lover, Julie, goes missing ten years after he disappeared, and everyone suspects that she left to join him. When her body is found many years later, it's clear that she never joined him, but it's unclear what might have happened to her and who was responsible. The novel is framed by the cold-case investigation of Julie's murder by Roberto "Sandy" Sanchez, a consultant with the Baltimore Police Department. As he investigates her disappearance and murder in the present, the novel takes us back in time to show us the backstory. Did Felix's widow or daughters kill Julie?
Ms. Lippman's writing is strong as usual, and the reader can't help but empathize with everyone in Felix's life whom he left with nothing but questions. Everyone has something to hide in this story and their secrecy and deception leave each other open to suspicion and distrust. I was guessing who was responsible up to the very end.
After I'm Gone is due out in February, 2014. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good mystery with well-developed characters.