After I’m Gone by Laura Lippman

After I'm Gone_What happens when someone disappears; here one day and gone the next without an explanation or a “good bye?” What happens to the people who are left behind?  Exploring these questions, Lippman deftly brings to light the lives of five women who were left behind when Felix Brewer, husband, father and lover and convicted felon, vanishes without a trace.

Felix Brewer was a businessman just on the shady side of legal. He had provided for his family with his various lucrative business dealings for many years and he and his wife, Bambi, along with their three girls had lived luxuriously. But first came the investigations into his business dealings and then his conviction and suddenly on July 4th 1976, just before he was to be incarcerated, he disappeared without a trace.

Bambi, shocked at his departure, and with the fact that he evidently left nothing behind for them to live on, struggles to maintain a lifestyle she can no longer afford and slowly begins to shed the trappings of their former life as she economizes.  Bambi is convinced that Felix intended to leave them something but suspects that Felix’s mistress, Julie kept the money, thereby depriving his children of what they deserved. Julie’s disappearance 10 years later, just seems to confirm Bambi’s suspicions that Julie had used those funds while patiently waiting until she could join Felix without arousing suspicions.

Then 26 years after Felix’s disappearance, Julie Saxony’s decomposed body is found in Baltimore, and it becomes apparent that she never left, but instead was murdered.  Roberto “Sandy” Sanchez, a retired detective who does freelance work on cold cases, picks up the case, intrigued by Julie’s murder and it’s entanglement with Felix’s disappearance and begins to uncover secrets and  lies that still impact the lives he left behind.

Although loosely based on the life of Julius Salisbury, a gambling king pin who was investigated, convicted and who then disappeared leaving his wife and three daughters rather than face a 15 year prison term,  Lippman says in an interview that she was  “...pretty uninterested in the man who disappeared even after creating my own version of him, Felix Brewer. I was fascinated by the women left behind. Harlan Coben said once that the stories about the missing are more haunting than the stories about the dead. It was a good observation. So I stole it.”

Lippman weaves back and forth through time, sometimes giving us the the story of how Felix and Bambi met and their life as a growing family, and at other times the daughters’ perspectives growing up without their father, all against the present day backdrop of “Sandy” Sanchez’s methodical detective work, as he untangles the web of lies and secrets in order to solve Julie Saxony’s murder.  She is a superb writer with a gift for creating realistic characters, and the ability to bring to life each time period, whether it is the early 60’s, the 70’s or the present day with a wholeness and realism that is quite extraordinary. I am never disappointed with her books!

Brenda’s Rating: ****(4 Stars out of 5) 

Recommend this book to: Keith, Sharon, and Marian

Book Study Worthy: yes

Read in ebook format.

 

 

 

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