Sunday, March 20, 2011

Review ~ Long Gone by Alafair Burke

Long Gone: A Novel
Author ~ Alafair Burke
Publisher ~ Harper Collins
Publication date ~ July 1, 2011

About the book ~ 

How well do you know your boss?

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-suited corporate representative who hires her, the gallery is a passion project for its anonymous, wealthy, and eccentric owner. Drew assures Alice that the owner will be hands off, allowing her to run the gallery on her own. Her friends think it sounds too good to be true, but Alice sees a perfect opportunity to make a name for herself beyond the shadow of her famous father, an award-winning and controversial film maker.

Everything is perfect until the morning Alice arrives at work to find the gallery gone—the space stripped bare as if it had never existed—and Drew Campbell’s dead body on the floor. Overnight, Alice’s dream job has vanished, and she finds herself at the center of police attention with nothing to prove her innocence. 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.

My thoughts ~ 

Alice Humphrey is looking for the perfect job, working somewhere in the art world. Determined to support herself, she cuts herself off financially from her parents, Oscar Award winning director, Frank Humphrey, and his beautiful wife, former actress, Rose. While attending an opening at a gallery she meets Drew Campbell. Almost immediately he offers her the chance of a lifetime. He would like her to manage the new Highline Gallery that his client, a reclusive billionaire, is opening. She will virtually have free reign to do whatever she wants, with one stipulation: she must showcase the controversial work of a good “friend” of the owner. The work must be shown for a specific period of time, several times a year. After that, the gallery is hers to do with what she wants.

It seems like everyone has a secret. Hank Beckman, an FBI agent, has already been officially disciplined for “stalking” the man he is convinced had something to do with his sisters’ death. He’s been good for the past two months, but now feels the urge to just do one little drive by of the guys place. What could it hurt? But he sees something that doesn’t make sense and he can’t seem to leave it alone. Then there’s Becca Stevenson, your typical teenage girl. Excited with the prospect of the cute boy in school actually liking her, she contemplates sexting with him. But there is also a mysterious someone she is talking to. And then one night Becca doesn’t come home, and her single-mother Joann is devastated. Especially when she learns that her not-so-perfect daughter has been keeping secrets from her. Even Alice’s parents and her brother Ben have parts of their lives they would rather remain hidden. 

Despite the fact that the work being shown at the gallery is a bit on the dubious side, the opening appears to go well. That is until the protestors arrive, picketing outside and claiming that the work being shown is child pornography. That the body images are those of pre-pubescent girls. Alice’s small little gallery soon becomes national news and suddenly her world implodes around her. She cannot get a hold of Drew, the gallery has been emptied, as if it never existed in the first place, and a dead body is found inside. When nothing that Alice tells the police proves true, she becomes suspect number one. Almost as if that role was created for her. Could it have been? Suddenly everything is seeming as if it is just a little too good to be true. 

Alice soon understands that it is up to her, and her alone, to prove her innocence. She must figure out what all these random things ~ the mystery artist and his work, the reclusive billionaire, the family lawyer, the protestors, a BMW, the fingerprints of missing teen Becca, in the gallery, the “casting couch” allegations against her father, ITH corporation, the company name on her paycheck, the mystery man Hank is shadowing, and one fateful night years ago ~ have to do with the dead body in her gallery. Will she stick around to face the music or will she be long gone when it’s time to accept the consequences?

Long Gone is Alafair Burke’s first stand-alone thriller and it has no trouble standing on its own two feet. It grabs you from the get go right up until its stunning conclusion. Just when you think you have it all figured out, another twist knocks you around and you need to rethink your previous conclusions. Ms. Burke has an inherent talent for bringing her readers right into the pages of the book, making you feel as if you are living the story along with Alice and everyone she comes into contact with. Long Gone is an engaging read, with a new protagonist you’ll enjoy getting to know and who you will continually root for, an interesting supporting cast of characters, each with their own six-degrees-of-separation connection to the murderer, a multifaceted plot that constantly surprises the reader. Without a doubt, Long Gone should be on every mystery reader’s must-read list. An engrossing thriller that can hold its own against any other in its genre.


About the author ~ 

A former deputy district attorney in Portland, Oregon, Alafair Burke now teaches criminal law at Hofstra Law School. The daughter of acclaimed crime writer James Lee Burke, she is a graduate of Stanford Law School and currently serves as a legal and trial commentator for radio and television programs, including for Court TV. She lives in New York City with her husband, Sean, and dog Duffer.

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