Alafair Burke,
Long Gone
(HarperCollins, 2011)

The butler did it. Or maybe that nasty wolf who always plays the bad guy. Maybe it was the man with the black mask on, who quietly breaks into a big old house, hides in the basement and waits for the naif to go downstairs to find out the source of that strange sound. But, with Long Gone, none of the cliched pulp fiction stereotypes abound. In Long Gone, Alafair Burke has written an excellent "stand-alone" book with a new character, Alice Humphrey, daughter of privilege, who wants to be on her own in New York, independent of her wealthy parents. With this new character and a deeper-toned story than her previous two series that feature respectively, NYPD detective Ellie Hatcher and Portland, Oregon, Deputy District Attorney Samantha Kincaid, both fine characters in several of Burke's previous books, the reader is quickly drawn into a web of inter-connecting skeins of spider silk that keeps one reluctant to stop reading, even when other duties call.

One of the more pertinent elements of Long Gone is many of us can relate to being underemployed, or unemployed, struggling to make ends meet, wanting to have a dream job and to be successful. Alice Humphrey is a woman who has the chops and education to make it in the hard-edged world of showcasing art, especially controversial art, but hasn't been able to find a place in that rarified world. When she meets a man named Drew Campbell who represents a wealthy sponsor who wishes to remain unknown to Alice or to anyone else, and who makes her an offer to run her own gallery and essentially have "carte blanche" in designing the gallery, Alice is tempted. All she is asked to do is to display some Robert Mapplethorpe-type photographs, initially, and then display other artists' work. Alice is hesitant to accept this strange "gift," and her close friends are worried, but as many of us would, particularly with a free hand and the chance to make it on her own, Alice takes a chance and jumps in with both feet to open a gallery with panache and controversy.

Alafair Burke has an extensive knowledge of the legal system, as well as how lawyers and police personnel react to and follow up on leads to make or break a case. When Alice Humphrey becomes part of an Alice in Wonderland crazy situation, where no one believes her story about the gallery being empty early one morning, a dead body on the floor, namely Drew Campbell, nee, someone else, she finds her dream job is really a nightmare that won't end. And in times like these, Long Gone is a story that will resonate with many of us, as we peruse the want ads, perhaps to hope, and maybe to dream.

book review by
Ann Flynt

12 November 2011

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