Absence may make the heart grow fonder, but it can also make the mind grow suspicious. That’s what happens in Laura Lippman’s insightful new mystery, After I’m Gone, when the wealthy, charming Felix Brewer chooses to escape his shady past by simply disappearing. While Felix makes a clean getaway, it’s not so easy for his widow, daughters and mistress to pick up the pieces of the schemes and dreams he has left in his wake.

Award-winning mystery writer Lippman nimbly poses the elaborate riddle of Felix’s disappearance by asking confounding questions at every turn. Why did he set up his mistress, stripper Julie Saxony, with her own business, but neglect to leave anything for Bambi, the wife he claimed to love above all else? Why has he never contacted his adult daughters? And most unanswerable of all, why was Julie murdered 10 years after Felix skipped town? And by whom?

Underlying everything is the question of just how far the characters will go to protect themselves and each other. With her signature attention to her characters’ inner lives, Lippman develops several plausible, and sympathetic, suspects. We get to know every one of these women—and a few men—through seamless flashbacks and the unfolding of complex family dramas. Gradually, we realize that every character has something huge to hide.

After I’m Gone winds up with surprising revelations on several fronts, not just the hunt for a murderer. As we learn the truth about everybody’s whereabouts on the day Julie was murdered, we keep thinking we’ve surely spotted the killer, but Lippman proves us wrong many times before the actual culprit comes forth. The last 50 pages fly by as we race to work out what really happened after Felix has gone.

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