Harper, ISBN 978-0061999185
June 21, 2011, 368 pages
Alice Humphrey’s life is not turning out exactly as she once expected.
Her father is a successful movie producer, her mother a retired movie star and she herself was a bit of a famous child actor. But striking out on her own in New York City, trying to succeed without her father’s help, has been hard. Here she is, well into her 30’s and out of work for months, money running low.
So when she is approached at a gallery opening by a man named Drew Campbell and offered a job as the manager of a new gallery that he is opening for a wealthy investor, it seems like a dream come true. You know what they say, that when things seem too good to be true, they probably are? Well, Alice should have listened.
From the start, there are a few issues with the job, like the fact that every so often she will be required to display the photographs of an artist the investor is backing. And that those photographs are consider by some to be bordering on child pornography, bringing a religious group to picket out front of the store. But Alice is confident it can all be worked out and that things will soon quiet down. She will meet with Drew at the gallery and they will work out a plan.
But when she turns up for the early morning meeting, she finds the gallery totally empty, the windows papered over and, worst of all a body on the floor. A very dead, very bloody, very shot body, the body of Drew Campbell. Can things get worse? Of course they can! It seems there is no record of this Drew Campbell ever having existed..except ones that point back to her. A photo show up of her kissing Drew, something she knows never happened, Alice’s name is on the store lease, and her glove is found with gunshot residue. It seems that Alice has gone from being an unemployed woman to being police's number one murder suspect. And maybe worse of all, it soon become apparent that she is not at all sure who she can trust.
Clearly, she is being set up but by whom and why? Her father is hiding something, her brother with a severe drug problem is always in need of money. Could her on again/off again boyfriend be involved or perhaps the family lawyer who seems to know a lot more than he is saying?
This is Alafair Burke’s seventh book, but her first standalone mystery after two three book series. And quite a good mystery it is, with perhaps a few flaws.
I found the beginning of the book rather confusing with, perhaps, too many characters and two many story lines introduced all at once. If I had been reading a paper book, rather than listening to an audiobook, I would have flipped back to reread parts, but with an audio I have enough trouble figuring out where I am without trying that. And I cannot say that I totally understood the need for the two subplots, one of a missing NJ teenager and the other of a FBI agent trying to find the man who killed his sister. Yes, in time, all the treads get tied together but perhaps it was all a little more complex that it had to be.
That being said, I enjoyed the book a good deal. Alice is a good character, smart and likable and out to do what she must to prove her innocence. There are lots and twists and turns and just when you think you understand what is going on, things go down another avenue, all leading up to an ending that I did not see coming.
A good, smart, enjoyable mystery that may take a little effort to get into but will pay you back with a good ride and a great ending.
My thanks to Library Thing Early Reviewers and Harper for a review copy of this book.