It would seem that BookBin2015 is the Year of Alafair Burke here at the lair. I wrote back in June all about discovering Burke’s Detective Ellie Hatcher series and how I had finally found a detective/mystery series that I enjoyed (other than J.K. Rowling’s Robert Galbraith efforts).
Therefore, it was with great joy and gratitude that I discovered If You Were Here, a new-to-me Burke novel, at the B&B we recently stayed at out in California, and was told by one of the staff that I could take the book with me if I liked it enough to want to finish it. Generous B&B is generous.
So in this novel, we meet a new character from Burke’s growing pantheon of strong, inquisitive women: McKenna Jordan, a former NYC ADA who is now a features reporter as a result of making a poorly considered choice early in her legal career that blacklisted her from that profession. In this new role, she comes across an incident in which a woman saved a young man who fell onto the subway tracks right before he was struck by an incoming train, and then bolted from the scene before anyone could identify her. Turns out, the woman was chasing the young man because he had just stolen her phone. It also turns out that McKenna thinks she knows who the woman is: a friend who disappeared nearly a decade ago and had been presumed by police to be dead.
Not one to be put off her gut instinct, McKenna latches on to trying to discover the mystery woman’s identity, which takes McKenna back through the tumultuous events that led to her leaving the ADA’s office and that McKenna realizes might somehow relate to her friend’s disappearance.
It all becomes tightly woven into an intricate pattern that only drops a stitch every now and again. It was a compelling enough story, even if a few times I grimaced at the perfect way certain things aligned. This is ultimately what always pulls me out of a mystery novel: I like coincidence to a point. For certain mysteries to pan out successfully, they require a level of coincidence that I often simply cannot buy into. Those instances in this story were enough to allow me to slip out of the zone of suspended disbelief enough to lose me from its grip.
Final Verdict: While I enjoyed reading the book and greatly appreciate the generosity of the B&B that allowed me to take it with me to finish it, I do believe that I shall be returning this on our next visit. I don’t see the need to keep it, but I think it could make a nice diversion for a future guest.