Wm Morrow/Harper Collins, $26.99, 334 pages, ISBN 978-0-06-208339-5
Have you ever played the WHAT IF game? You know . . . the one that goes like this . . . What if I lost my job? What if one of us gets sick? Really, really sick like Ebola or something? What if a UFO landed behind our house? What would we do . . . Yeah. That game. We all do it from time to time and it’s not always negative. What if I won the lottery? What if weird old Aunt Wilma died and left us an ostrich ranch in the Australian outback? The WHAT IF game can be entertaining, harmless and fun—providing one doesn’t let it get out of hand and become neurotic. For a handful of us, the privileged few who write fiction for a living, the game can be downright intoxicating, because some of our best story ideas come that way.
After I’m Gone, by Laura Lippman is a case in point. She, inspired by a real life event that her husband encouraged her to investigate, used her imagination . . . playing the WHAT IF game and turned it into a dandy crime story with her writing talents . . . which are formidable. She is a best-selling author with a world-wide fan base and a slew of novels to her credit. So . . . WHAT IF . . . your spouse or significant other left for work one day and simply disappeared; and you never saw them again. Not ever. And, in addition, making it all the more painful, you never knew where or how, or whatever happened to them. That’s the premise of Lippman’s novel, which focuses on the life of Bambi Gottschalk and her three young daughters after the disappearance of her husband of fifteen years, a man named Felix, who was about to start a prison term for criminal gambling activity. Although Bambi has no idea where he is, or what happened to Felix, she thinks that his mistress, a woman named Julie does. When Julie disappears ten years to the day after Felix, Bambi’s sure that they’re together. But then, decades later Julie’s remains are found in an overgrown, remote and inaccessible part of a local park. The murder goes unsolved until a cold case detective re-opens it. You’ll be fully engrossed by then in the lives of the women Felix Gottschalk left behind, and in trying to figure out which one knows where to find the missing man. Read After I’m Gone, and discover for yourself why Laura Lippman is so wildly popular. You’ll love her!