Lori Golden’s family have had more than their fair share of troubles. But through it all, Lori and her sister, Jessie, have always supported each other. Then Jessie is killed. And Lori’s world turns upside down.
Devastated, Lori struggles to cope with her loss, and to learn to live in a world without her bright, bubbly sister by her side. Around her, her already fractured family start to fall apart. And, as Lori and her mother try to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives, secrets long thought buried are coming painfully to light.
Faced with the unthinkable, Lori is forced to ask herself how well she really knows those who are left behind…
Having read and enjoyed Blackwater Lake by Maggie James a few months ago, I was really looking forward to reading her new book 'After She's Gone'. But unfortunately even though with a great premise, this book fell miserably short of my expectations.
Jessie, a teenage girl, fails to return home one night. Her mother Dana and sister Lori are desperate to know her whereabouts. Living at home with the family are Dana's partner Jake and his son Spencer.
Spencer wakes up dazed and confused in a basement. He's horrified to find that he's in one of Dana's empty rental properties and lying near him on the floor is Jessie... dead. He also smells smoke and realises that the place is on fire. Terrified he makes a swift exit. Someone has murdered the girl. But who? And why? Did he do this under the effects of drugs? Or someone else? All he knows is that he was enjoying himself in a bar and then nothing. How did he end up there?
When Jessie's body is discovered by fire rescue, Dana and Lori are devastated and their lives are thrown into a horrible nightmare. The police start their investigation, and Lori begins to go through her list of suspects too. Who could have done this to sweet Jessie? At the same time we also have a pyromaniac on the loose in town, setting abandoned warehouses on fire everywhere. Who is this madman? Was it this person who killed Jessie and set the house on fire?
The book's blurb was enticing enough to make me want to read it. It started off very well and I really enjoyed the first part and found it very intriguing. I wanted to keep on reading to find out who of the many possible suspects would be the killer.
Now, I have great respect for this author. I know she's written a number of brilliant thrillers. However, I don't know what happened with this one. I'm not sure, maybe it's just me not connecting with the story. As the plot thickened, the characters began to literally wear me out. At times it felt as if they were just going round and round in circles. I came across the following routine numerous times: Dana goes upstairs to cry in her room, Lori leaves her claustrophobic house, goes to Aiden's house, fuels her suspicions on his housemate Damon, then on to her boyfriend Ryan for some kissing and cuddling. Afterwards back home for some hugging (and we have A LOT of hugging!). I wondered how Oreo the cat didn't end up bald by the end of the book with the number of times Lori strokes its head (lucky bugger!). By the end, I'm sorry to say that I did not care for any of them, not even Lori or Dana with all the bad things happening to them. Spencer was the most interesting character, but sadly he disappears from the scene early on.
Apart from being a bit repetitive, I thought the plot was predictable too. I had an obvious suspect in mind from the beginning and I kept hoping the author would blow me away with some unexpected twist to prove me wrong, however there was no such twist and by the end I was proved right. I just hate it when that happens!
The book lacks any heart-pounding, edge-of-your-seat suspense and I thought there was too much going on at the same time. I think Jessie's murder should have been kept at the centre of the story, but at times it seemed to be just a side story with more emphasis put on the numerous fires being set out throughout the city, Dana's condition and to other secondary things. I persevered and read the whole book, but the ending too was not convincing enough and raised questions in my head.
The whole idea behind the book was very interesting and intriguing, but I think the way it was delivered was not right. With a lot of things going on (some of which unnecessary to the plot), a complete deviation from the murder, repetitions and long chapters, this book was just not for me. Sorry!
This was my honest opinion. With thanks to Lake Union Publishing for an ARC of this book which I voluntarily accepted to read and review.
Maggie James is a British author who lives in Bristol. She writes psychological suspense novels.
Before turning her hand to writing, Maggie worked mainly as an accountant, with a diversion into practising as a nutritional therapist. Diet and health remain high on her list of interests, along with travel. Accountancy does not, but then it never did. The urge to pack a bag and go off travelling is always lurking in the background! When not writing, going to the gym, practising yoga or travelling, Maggie can be found seeking new four-legged friends to pet; animals are a lifelong love!