After I’m Gone by Laura Lippman (Review #2)

After I'm GoneReviewed by Dianne Woodman

Laura Lippman has written an engaging mystery that is as much about unraveling a puzzling crime as it is about probing into the unexpected repercussions faced by individuals after the abrupt disappearance of a friend and loved one.

After I’m Gone begins July 4, 1976. Felix Brewer, a racketeer, has made the decision to jump bail so that he can avoid serving time in prison. He enlists the help of his stripper girlfriend, Julie Saxony, who is disappointed when he refuses to take her with him. Felix also leaves behind his wife, three young daughters, and close associates. Lives are changed forever because of Felix’s rash decision.

The story fast-forwards to March 2, 2012. Sandy Sanchez is introduced. He is a widower and retired Baltimore homicide detective, who is struggling to cope with the loss of his wife and is haunted by inner demons. Being a consultant for the Baltimore police department helps Sandy deal with the personal difficulties in his life. He only works on cold cases and is looking through some folders for a new case to take on when he notices discrepancies in the case files he is pursuing. An intriguing mystery catches his eye. It involves the murder of Julie Saxony and the unsolved mystery that surrounds the disappearance of Felix Brewer. Julie is reported missing ten years after Felix vanishes. Authorities assume she left to join Felix, but fifteen years after her disappearance her dead body is discovered in a remote area of a park. Sandy is intrigued by the two cold cases and decides to conduct an investigation.

The story smoothly transitions between flashbacks and present day scenes. Each chapter focuses on different characters’ viewpoints and events in their personal lives providing readers with a firsthand look into the impact Felix has on the people he abandons. Tension builds slowly, and the solution to the two cold cases has a surprising twist ending. The novel encompasses betrayal, greed, deception, envy, sacrifice, unfaithfulness, corruption, and the tenacity of familial ties.

The author’s inspiration for the story is loosely tied to Julius Salsbury, a legendary bookmaker in Baltimore. In the summer of 1970, Julius is facing a prison term and makes the decision to skip town and leaves his wife behind.

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