After I'm Gone: A Novel by Laura Lippman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Description: When Felix Brewer meets
nineteen-year-old Bernadette "Bambi" Gottschalk at a Valentine's Dance
in 1959, he charms her with wild promises, some of which he actually
keeps. Thanks to his lucrative-if not all legal-businesses, she and
their three little girls live in luxury. But on the Fourth of July,
1976, Bambi's comfortable world implodes when Felix, newly convicted and
facing prison, mysteriously vanishes.
Though Bambi has no idea
where her husband-or all of his money-might be, she suspects one woman
does: his devoted young mistress, Julie. When Julie disappears ten years
to the day that Felix went on the lam, everyone assumes she's left to
join her old lover-until her remains are eventually found in a secluded
Now, twenty-six years after Julie went missing,
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, jealously, resentment, greed,
and longing stretching over three decades that connects five intriguing
women: a faithful wife, a dead mistress, and three very different
daughters. And at the center is the man who, though long gone, has never
been forgotten by the five women who loved him: the enigmatic Felix
Somewhere between the secrets and lies connecting past
and present, Sandy will find the truth. And when he does, no one will
ever be the same
My thoughts: I found this book more chick lit than thriller. The original crime occurs years ago when Felix realizes he is cornered and disappears. He leaves his wife, three daughters, and a mistress. All of them on the north side of destitute.
The book is really the story of what happens afterwards. Did he really take all that money he embezzled and start a new life in a new country? Was he killed? Did one of the players actually take all the money? So we follow the women for a few decades. What we discover is the strength in the faithful wife. We also have a few flashbacks from their courtship and discover a few things that add to the story and ultimately solve the mystery of the missing money. But that's just icing on the cake. The real meat of the story is what the ladies do with their lives. The daughters grow up very differently. They each internalize the betrayal and the abandonment very differently. The jilted wife pushes forward and evolves yet stays true to herself. The mistress inherits the cafe, the one legitimate business yet suffers despite being the only one with a clear inheritance.
There are peripheral characters that play a part in the story but the real fascination is the evolution of the women left by a selfish man.
Felix? That mystery is solved in a satisfying manner.