Long Gone by Alafair Burke
Author: Alafair Burke
Genre: Suspense Fiction
Release Date: June 21st, 2011
Source: Copy provided by publisher for TLC Book Tours
What's It About?: Things are starting to turn around for Alice Humphrey. At 37 she is unemployed, single, and struggling to get out from the shadow of her father, a famous movie director. It's been eight months since being laid off from her job at the Met, and Alice begins to question many of the choices in her life including her decision to get an MFA. Then one night at a local art show, she meets handsome and mysterious Drew Campbell who offers her a job managing the art gallery he is to open that will showcase the work of unknown Hans Schuler, an artist who's works are edgy, modern, and quite disturbing. Wondering if the offer is too-good-to-be-true, Alice's initial skepticism gives way to her desperation to not only find a job but to land her dream job.
Soon, Alice finds her rhythm again and enjoys the structure that managing the gallery has given to her days. While opening night may not have been packed, online orders for Schuler's work begin pouring in until one afternoon Alice finds a group of protesters marching outside the gallery alleging that some of the models in the photographs are underage. Unsure of what to do, she calls Drew for help and agrees to meet him at the gallery the next morning. However, when she arrives the gallery has been stripped of all art and a dead body lays on the ground. As the police begin their investigation, one that becomes entangled with a case involving a missing New Jersey teenager, Alice quickly finds herself as the prime suspect. Now she must do everything in her power to find out the truth, even if it means revealing some secrets long hidden by her estranged family.
What Did I Think?: Long Gone is Alafair Burke's first standalone novel and, from what I've read, departs from her usual detective based fare. I can't say if this is better than her previous works, but the story was quite suspenseful and riveting. Much of the book was consumed in large chunks as I couldn't stop turning the pages. An NYC setting, an underground criminal enterprise, hidden secrets, an on-again off-again boyfriend, an estranged brother, and a missing girl are just some of the elements that really made Long Gone come alive. This well-crafted tale employs many twists and turns along the way.
Even though predictable at times, I still fell into Alice's story quickly. While some of her choices came across as naive, especially for a 37 year old woman, they weren't outlandish. I chalk a lot up to the desparation created by being unemployed. As the investigation continues, Alice begins to grow and become more confident in herself instead of crumbling or relying on someone else. Yay for a strong heroine! Unfortunately, I felt that the male counterparts were a little lacking in development and came across as slightly stereotypical but not in an overt way that would bring the book down.
The prose flows well with both dialogue and detail complementing each other. For me, the beginning chapters introduced a lot of different characters and subplots and seemed a little choppy, but as I continued I realized that Burke's talent lies in taking these multiple story threads and weaving them together by the end of the book. Sure some of the subplots weren't as well developed or wraped up, but this didn't really affect my level of enjoyment.
While Long Gone may not appeal to some readers, I think most fans of psychological and suspense thrillers will enjoy it immensley. I like how Burke raised many of the questions surrounding social media today from online message boards to illegal photography to Facebook. This was my first Alafair Burke novel, but it certainly won't be my last!