The marriage was not necessarily a happy one and Felix had a mistress, a stripper named Julie. When Julie vanishes ten years to the day that Felix disappeared, everyone assumes that Felix summoned her to join him in his exile… until, years later, Julie’s remains are found in a secluded wood.
Now, in 2012, Roberto “Sandy” Sanchez, a cold-case investigator decides to re-open the case – and discovers many long-buried secrets within the family.
Right, let’s make things clear at the outset. This is a mystery novel. You certainly couldn’t tell from the front cover, but when you see that the back cover contains recommendations from Mark Billingham, Tess Gerritsen and Harlan Coben, you realise what sort of novel it is. I wonder – if one of those quotes was on the front cover, might it make it more likely to be picked up in a bookshop? Maybe, maybe not?
I commented before on mystery writers who create convincing characters. Well, Laura Lippman takes it to another level. The book chapters alternate between the present day investigation and events from the past, and even the present day chapters delve deeply into the past of Sanchez alongside the investigation. The historical chapters add a lot of background and depth to the various characters in the narrative and at the end of the day, the mystery element is resolved very satisfactorily.
But I don’t think this book is for every mystery fan. I think it all depends on how important the focus on the plot is for the reader. As well-written as the characterisations are, there is a large chunk of it that it unnecessary for the armchair sleuth, and for that reader, it might seem rather slow. For example, a large selection of the flashback chapters happen between Julie’s disappearance and the present day, which, while they do contain some important information, any clues are hidden like a needle in a haystack. Some readers will find these chapters engrossing and involving… sorry to say, I’m not one of those readers.
There is a lot to admire here – it’s a very impressive piece of work – but at the end of the day, it wasn’t my cup of tea. But if you want something that combines a decent whodunit with a strong character drama, then this is probably the book for you. Highly Recommended – if it sounds like your sort of thing.