I am close to finishing the newest book by Alafair Burke, NEVER TELL . The first book I reviewed by this author is LONG GONE. The two books are equally good but so very different. First, another look at LONG GONE.
“Most of the best things in life came to Alice organically. Not because she asked. Not because she looked. Not because she forced. They happened because she stumbled onto them. The high-flying philosophical question of whether the pieces of her life fell into place through luck, randomness, fate, or unconscious intuition was way above her pay grade, but somehow things usually worked out for her.”
One of those things that works out for her is meeting Drew Campbell at an art gallery. They engage in a comfortable conversation about art and then he asks the question: “Would you be interested in managing a gallery of your own?” It makes so much sense when Drew explains it. Someone wants to open a gallery to showcase the works of an unknown artist who is reclusive in the extreme. The artwork is decidedly different and not to the taste of most people but once this show is over, Alice will be free to showcase the of work of an artist of her own choosing. Alice has been out of work for eight months and knows how destructive of self-esteem it is to have no form to one’s days. She will be earning money, something else that contributes to self-worth, and will not have to turn to her father. This is just one more instance of how things just appear in front of her, things that mold her life rather that making it necessary for her to fashion a life of her own.
Alice and her brother, Ben, have lived among creative people all their lives. Her father is Oscar-winning director Frank Humphrey and her mother, Rose Sampson, won an Oscar of her own, awarded for a performance in a film directed by her husband. All the Humphreys are used to having people smooth out the rough spots that intrude in their lives, and the chief fixer is Arthur Cronin, the family lawyer.
Alice knows there is something very odd about the gallery set-up. All the art is photographs and prints that, when purchased, are sent off with a thumb drive, but in the twenty-first century, all things new are considered genius. Rarely did anyone come into the gallery but on-line sales are brisk and the show is definitely making money. That the mail is being sent to an offshore bank doesn’t bother or intrigue Alice; it is just something that people with money do.
Across the river from Manhattan, in Dover, New Jersey, something very old is playing out with a new twist. Becca Stevenson, the only child of a single mother, is the victim of the very old sport of bullying. Bullying is entering a more murderous age in the era of the ubiquitous cell phone. Text messages and camera phones can make life hell for someone not savvy enough to understand the rules, too naive to understand that there are no rules when the pack has chosen its prey. When Becca disappears, her mother hopes she is a runaway. For Joann Stevenson, running away from her home means her daughter can run back to it when she’s ready.
Hank Beckman, FBI agent, promises Joann that he will never give up looking for Becca. No matter how long it takes he will find her. But Hank’s focus is more firmly placed on Travis Larson, the man who romanced his sister, took her money, and in Hank’s view, forced her into an early death.
Life for Alice becomes very complicated when she discovers the body of a man in the gallery, the gallery that has been stripped of everything from art to furniture to office supplies. The police have a picture of her kissing the dead man; Alice has been set up but she has no idea who hates her enough to go so far to destroy her. People she thought she knew are turning into people she doesn’t know. Identities are changing, including her own. What was is no longer part of her reality.
LONG GONE is the life Alice Humphrey accepted when things just appeared in front of her. She and Becca are victims of Facebook and instant messaging, where things are passed on without thought to consequences and where lives are defined by a cell phone picture.