Title: Long Gone
Author: Alafair Burke
Synopsis (Courtesy of Powell’s Books):
“What if everything you thought you knew turned out to be a lie?
After a layoff and months of struggling, Alice Humphrey finally lands her dream job managing a new art gallery in Manhattan’s trendy Meatpacking District. According to Drew Campbell, the well-heeled corporate representative who hires her, the gallery is a passion project for its anonymous, wealthy, and eccentric owner. Her friends think it sounds too good to be true, but Alice sees an opportunity to make a name for herself beyond the shadow of her famous father, an award-winning and controversial filmmaker.
Everything is perfect until the morning Alice arrives at work to find the gallery gone — the space stripped bare as if it had never been there — and Drew Campbell’s dead body on the floor. Overnight, Alice’s dream job has vanished, and she finds herself at the center of a police investigation, with the evidence mounting against her. The phone number Drew gave her links back to a disposable phone. The artist whose work she displayed doesn’t seem to exist. And the dead man she claims is Drew has been identified as someone else.
When police discover ties between the gallery and a missing girl, Alice knows she’s been set up. Now she has to prove it — a dangerous search for answers that will entangle her in a dark, high-tech criminal conspiracy and force her to unearth long-hidden secrets involving her own family…secrets that could cost Alice her life.”
Thoughts: Alafair Burke’s Long Gone is a fantastic he said/she said thriller in which the truth has more twists and turns than the most complex roller coaster. Alice investigates the various secrets that threaten her safety and her freedom while trying to stay ahead of the police who have already decided upon her guilt in spite of the lingering clues. It makes for an intense read that requires reading from start to finish, if only to avoid constantly thinking about it when not reading it.
Alice is not your everyday hero. Having grown up in a showbiz family, complete with Oscar-winning parents, her view of life is a bit skewed. While she tries to do the right thing by breaking off ties with her father’s money and connections, one year of unemployment has forced her hand into accepting what she thinks is the perfect job for her, even if it is too good to be true. Alice is smarter than she looks, but it is not until she is truly tested by viewing the rapidly cooling body of her former boss where she starts to use that intelligence to prove her innocence.
In addition to being a murder mystery, Long Gone is also very much a novel about relationships, for the relationships people form, break, support, or hide have a direct connection to Alice and her actions. At the same time as she is desperately trying to find evidence to exonerate her, she is also trying to navigate her way around her fragile relationship with her philandering father, her hot-and-cold relationship with her former boyfriend, her tension-filled relationship with her addict brother. Life never stops moving no matter if one is in the middle of a life crisis, and Ms. Burke uses, with great effectiveness, life’s complexity to enhance her story.
Long Gone confirms that adage that if something is too good to be true, it probably is. While most readers will never be framed for murder like Alice is, the novel does serve as a good cautionary tale about one’s actions and their eventual repercussions. Whether one believes in karma or not, life does have a way of sneaking up on a person and making him or her pay for previous negative actions. Ms. Burke presents this cliche in a much more exciting fashion, creating sympathy for Alice’s predicament at the same time she also serves as a warning for those who expect great things with little efforts.
In Long Gone, the story never stalls even when she switches narrators with every chapter. Tension builds evenly, and the reader’s interest in Alice’s plight never lags. Alafair Burke’s first standalone novel showcases her ability to build a suspenseful crime story. Long-time fans of Ms. Burke’s work will definitely not want to miss her latest, while newcomers will be enticed to try her other novels. For an intricate and yet balanced thriller that allows a reader to escape the summer heat, one cannot go wrong with Long Gone.