Book of the Week: After I’m Gone – Laura Lippman

Lippman is one of my very favorite house authors. A master of the commercial suspense novel, she’s not my usual kind of go-to reading but I never miss one of her books. For readers who like mysteries, I know that one of the deep satisfactions is plot. But the “whodunit” part of a story has never been a major draw for me. I like mysteries that are soupy with character and sticky with moral and cultural quandaries.

What makes Lippman so delicious is that she marries a driving and suspenseful plot with something more thinky and nuanced. This is a writer more interested in the lives of people affected by crime than the criminal act itself. The ripple effect of crime is what interests Lippman– and in her hands, watching how crime affects many lives over time becomes a very rich experience.

Here’s the kind of thing national book reviewers say about her:

“Lippman is a writing powerhouse.” — USA Today

“Lippman has enriched literature as a whole.”— Chicago Sun-Times

“She’s one of the best novelists around, period.” — Washington Post

This newest book is the story of the five women left behind in the wake of a charismatic criminal philanderer. Felix Brewer and his wife fell in love at first sight. They had three daughters while Felix grew rich by murky means. He’s also got a young mistress on the side. In 1976 with the Feds closing in, Felix disappears and his wife’s dream life ends. She suspects that the mistress knows where Felix is but 10 years later the mistress disappears and ends up dead. We follow the story of a contemporary cop investigating this all as a cold case. What the Baltimore detective discovers is less a mystery about Felix than about the women–the tangled interrelationships, the bitterness, jealously, greed, and longing that binds together a faithful wife, a dead mistress, and three very different daughters.

Advance reviews point to the possibility that this standalone is her best book yet. It’s been reviewed by all the major preview journals and received stars from three of them—PW even gave After I’m Gone the rare boxed review.

On July 4, 1976, shady businessman Felix Brewer escapes the law by fleeing suburban Maryland, leaving behind his wife, Bambi; three daughters; and a mistress, Julie Saxony. So begins bestseller Lippman’s finely wrought study of what it means to move forward without answers….Adept as always with character nuance, Lippman (And When She Was Good) uses Roberto “Sandy” Sanchez, a consultant who used to be a Baltimore cop, to dig into Julie’s cold case, and to uncover the secrets of the women Felix left in his wake.”
Publishers Weekly, starred, boxed review

“In this stand-alone (adroitly linked to the Tess Monaghan series), Lippman focuses on the inner lives of the women left behind. . . . A masterly novel of character, with secrets skillfully and gradually revealed. Revel in the pace and pleasures of this book that should add to Lippman’s literary luster.”
Library Journal, starred review

“Lippman stretches a richly textured canvas that depicts, with wit and sensitivity, the wounded but tough women Felix left behind. As she traces the matrix of longing, jealousy, and betrayal that led to Julie’s murder, Lippman incisively explores marriage, Jewish family life, class distinctions, and the power and liability of physical beauty, thus creating an involving and elegant novel of the psychological ravages of crime.

“Lippman is a bet you just can’t lose.”
Kirkus Reviews, starred review

No surprise that this will be a March Indie Next pick and that initial coverage will include the NYTBR, including an author feature.

After I’m Gone (9780062083395) by Laura Lippman. $26.99 hardcover. 2/11/14 on sale.

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