Review: If You Were Here by Alafair Burke

If You Were Here

While pursuing a lead about a young man pulled from the subway tracks by a mysterious woman, lawyer turned journalist McKenna Wright uncovers more than she bargained for. A video shot on a cell phone reveals the identity of the woman — someone who looks a lot like McKenna’s old friend Susan, who went missing five years before under mysterious circumstances. Not content to let sleeping dogs lie, McKenna begins to slowly peel back the layers of the current story and discover just how much of a connection is has to the disappearance of her friend all those years ago.

For the past couple of years, Alafair Burke has given readers some of the more entertaining, character driven legal thrillers that don’t have the name John Grisham attached to them. But with her newest novel If You Were Here, Burke tries something different from the legal thriller (though there are links to McKenna’s legal past and her time in the district attorney’s office) and goes in for a full-blown suspense thriller. Using short chapters, Burke keeps the surprises coming at a good clip that you’ll keep turning the pages and wondering just what the next dramatic revelation could or should be. It makes the novel a page turner, but not one that necessarily holds up well to scrutiny if you start to think too much either while taking a break from reading or once the entire picture is revealed.

It’s interesting that this novel is headed for shelves in time for the summer season because as I read it, I kept thinking just how well it would work as a beach or poolside read.

And while Burke’s previous works have taken a page from the legal thriller column and the works of Grisham, this one seems a bit more to take a page from the thrillers of Lee Child and his Jack Reacher series. (Eagle eyed readers will spot several homages to Reacher, though thankfully no one in this book is obsessed with coffee and that the fold-up toothbrush is the single greatest invention in the history of humankind).

This isn’t necessarily my favorite offering from Burke, but it’s a nice stand-alone novel that may open the door to readers discovering her other novels and enjoying those.

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