Title: After I’m Gone
Author: Laura Lippman
Release Date: February 11, 2014
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: Literary Mystery
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
In 1976, a bookie and gambler named Felix Brewer disappeared from the Baltimore area, leaving behind his wife, three daughters, and the imminent threat of jail time. Ten years later, his mistress, Julie, disappears as well. The assumption that Julie went to join Felix is disproved when, decades later, her body is discovered. Sandy Sanchez, a consultant for the police department, decides to take on this cold case, digging into Felix’s old business, his wife, Bambi, and their daughters in order to uncover what really happened to Julie.
A smart and sharp novel, After I’m Gone takes the art of literary mystery to new heights. Though the premise of the book is centered around Julie’s murder, it’s the women in this novel—Julie, Bambi, and Bambi’s three daughters—that shine here, turning this into a gripping, character-driven novel.
After I’m Gone is a gorgeously written literary mystery, with five deep, thoughtful women at its core. Though it’s billed as a mystery novel, this is a character study more than anything else. It’s quiet, with small earthquakes rather than shattering ones; Bambi has the world at her fingertips in one moment, then loses everything in the next. It’s a close look at how circumstances can change people, and the difficult relationships between women. Lippman did an excellent job with her characters; each of these women gets a chance to narrate, and it’s fascinating to look into their heads and see how different, yet how much the same, they are.
Once again, Baltimore takes center stage in After I’m Gone, as it almost always does in Lippman’s novels. The city has a life of its own, reverberating underneath the surface of this book. It’s gritty, yet you can feel Lippman’s love for her city through her words and careful descriptions. Readers who enjoy novels with a sense of place will absolutely appreciate what Lippman has done with this novel, and her longtime fans will love the familiar character cameos that occur in the book.
The novel is told over a long period of time, jumping back and forth to fully flesh out each of the characters and their situations. It’s how we get to hear from Julie, though she’s dead when After I’m Gone begins. With the changes in narrators and time frames, this could be confusing, but it’s a testament to Lippman’s skill that these jumps only serve to enhance the story. She does a great job differentiating both her narrators and the time periods.
If you’re looking for a thoughtful, contemplative read that still manages to move at a quick pace and be suspenseful, you should absolutely pick up After I’m Gone. Lippman has incredible skill when it comes to literary mysteries; she does such a great job with her characters that they become the driving force of the story, rather than the plot. I know fans of hers have been waiting eagerly for this book, but those new to Lippman should also consider picking up this gripping standalone novel.
Other books by Laura Lippman:
Tess Monaghan series