Alice Humphrey is desperate to make a name for herself that's independent of her parents' Hollywood fame, so when the handsome Drew Campbell offers her a job managing an art gallery near the newly-fashionable Meatpacking District of New York City, she says yes. Perhaps she should have investigated Campbell and his anonymous client a bit more closely, because the first mandatory exhibit Alice must organize consists of nude photos of questionable artistic value. When a religious organization pickets the gallery and then the rented space is stripped clean except for Campbell's dead body, Alice quickly becomes a person of interest in the ensuing murder investigation.
Alafair Burke's first stand-alone novel, Long Gone (just out in paperback), is a multi-layered mystery involving clever deceptions, family secrets and misplaced trust. Like many of us, Alice sees in people what she wants to see — a philandering father who nonetheless is generous to his wife and children, a rich businessman who gives her a great job, a new friend who offers great advice, an old flame who is still on her side and a brother who has beaten his addictions. But does Alice see the truth?
A variety of viewpoints and a diverse cast of characters keep readers engaged and guessing. Like Alice, we don't know whom to trust, and we're not sure how or if the possible suspects and motives will come together. Fortunately, Burke subtly plants the evidence, making the mystery difficult to solve while keeping the plot consistent and believable throughout.
Although Long Gone touches on a number of relevant social issues such as single parenting, the abuse of social media and the nature of art, Burke's well-constructed thriller never becomes preachy. Instead, readers stay focused on the characters, their relationships and their possible connection to Alice. From action scenes to quiet stakeouts, Burke maintains the suspense, and we hope Alice can clear her name without causing too much collateral damage.
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