I sat down Wednesday, next to one of my To-Be-Read stacks of books, and thought, "Oh, I have the new Laura Lippman...perfect!" I picked Hush, Hush up off the pile...and before I could open it, my eyes scanned down the stack...and down...and down. And there was After I'm Gone, her 2014 stand-alone. So, down went Hush, Hush and up came After I'm Gone.
And now I'm done. And I loved it. No big surprise there. I've liked all of Lippman's books to varying degrees...tend to like the stand-alones very slightly better than the Tess Monaghan ones (though I loved the insertions of Tess and Crow in this book). And maybe I'm a little less critical because Lippman writes so lovingly of Baltimore and, even more so than with Anne Tyler, generally a Baltimore I feel as though I recognize, a Baltimore I lived in for the first decade or so of my life.
The germ of this story was a real event in the 70's...the as-yet-unsolved disappearance of a Baltimore crook. Like that guy, the crook in this story (Felix Brewer) left behind his wife (Bambi), three daughters, and a mistress (Julie). But Lippman doesn't focus on Felix, though he's in the thoughts of all the women. Instead she examines how his disappearance shapes the lives (and death) of the women he leaves behind. (I found the three daughters and their relationships especially appealing.)
The book alternates chapters dealing with the years between Felix and Bambi's first meeting and chapters following Sandy Sanchez's cold-case investigation, an investigation he is carrying out as a contractor for the city. Sanchez is an interesting character, too, and I enjoyed learning his back story. (By the end of the book, it looks as though he is going to team up with Tess Monaghan, so now I really will have to hurry up and read Hush, Hush!)
My only quibble...and it's a small one and probably one that would only occur to a Baltimorean...at one point Sandy is chatting with a guy about a body found in Leakin Park and the guy says something like "I get it. You think I had my heart attack because I carried this body into the park." And Sandy's inner radar gives a little beep because, he thinks, "Nothing was released about [the victim] being dumped. Why doesn't he assume the killing took place where the body was found?" Come on, Laura!! We all know Leakin Park's the dumping ground, not the killing ground. Whenever I hear of a body being found in Leakin Park, I always think someone dumped it there. But, as I said, a small quibble.
So, if you like mysteries with a strong sense of location, mysteries where family secrets are brought to light, mysteries with well-rounded characters...give this one a read.