After spending a long time out of work, Alice Humphrey is pleasantly surprised when she’s approached at an art show about running a new art gallery in New York City. At first, Alice believes it’s too good to be true and her friends believe it’s just an attempt by the handsome young man, Drew, to get her phone number. But it appears Drew’s desire to have Alice run a gallery for a controversial artist is on the up and up. The opening is successful and Alice is excited about planning future shows from other artists.
Then things start to go horribly wrong. A group of protesters show up outside the gallery, saying the photographs being sold are exploiting underage minors. When Drew sets a meeting with Alice the next morning at the gallery, she arrives to find the gallery gutted and Drew murdered. Before long, Alice is in the prime suspect in the police investigation into the murder of Drew.
Adding to the layers of complication is the fact that Alice is the daughter of a Hollywood couple–her father an Oscar-winning director, her mother a former actress–and her brother struggles with a drug addiction. Throw into this mix an FBI agent who is obsessed with Drew and was following him despite being told to drop all contact with the man and you’ve got a story that barrels along at a crisp pace, never allowing the reader to get too comfortable with one interesting revelation before moving on to the next one.
“Long Gone” builds up a palatable sense of something more is going on here than meets the eye, especially in the early chapters. Alafair Burke weaves together several seemingly unconnected threads into a rich tapestry as we slowly discover dark secrets about everyone connected to Alice and the investigation into Drew’s murder. And the novel even delivers a stern warning about being careful to monitor your digital footprint. The parties involved in setting up Alice take advantage of her lack of security on her social networking profile to set up events and even cast suspicion upon her.
And while the novel builds up a full head of steam for the first two-thirds of the story, the ending doesn’t quite come together as neatly as I’d hoped. Burke puts all the pieces onto the board early enough that the ending doesn’t feel like it’s cheated or come too far out of left field. However, it’s still not as satisfying or compelling as the set-up leading up to the dramatic revelations in the final section of the novel.
“Long Gone” was still intriguing enough that I’m planning to seek our more novels by Alafair Burke, though.