The rescue of a teenager from the subway tracks by a mysterious woman in a white sweater serves as the starter pistol in the amazing race that is Alafair Burke's new standalone novel, If You Were Here. There is no "build-up" to this suspense novel, it's adrenaline-pumping right out of the gate.
McKenna Jordan (a name that may be familiar to some readers) is a former assistant prosecutor turned journalist coming off some significant success on a feature article she wrote regarding the case that ended her legal career. She suspects that the rescue on the subway tracks may be a bigger story than first meets the eye. When she starts digging, what she finds is more shocking than even she imagined; she's positive the mysterious woman is her friend Susan who disappeared without a trace ten years ago--about the same time McKenna's legal career imploded.
Obstacle after obstacle seem to be popping up in McKenna's path to uncovering the truth about the subway and the mystery woman, including a scandal that costs her her job at the magazine, but McKenna is determined to find the truth. As the "obstacles" grow in severity, the path twists and turns while the question shifts from "will she uncover the truth" to "will she live long enough to uncover the truth."
The long lost loved one returning under mysterious circumstances has indeed been done in crime fiction many times, but Alafair Burke infuses her own brand of creativity and excitement into the plot concept to create a fresh approach and an exciting story. This is by far Burke's fastest, intensest, most engrossing plot yet. She keeps the reader guessing with a plausibly frightening corkscrew of events.
With each book Burke's upped her game but If You Were Here shows her greatest leap. Her trademark use of pop culture enhances the plot with a brilliant Twitter scheme and a hilarious use for duct tape and law books. Her view of New York City is both honest and insightful. Non-natives will feel immersed not only in the geography but the culture of the city.
However, her passion comes out in the characters unlike any of her previous books. And that passion translates to her readers who stay up late, on the edges of their seats because they can't possibly leave McKenna and Patrick alone all night; they have to see them through their life-altering ordeal.
As a standalone, readers new to Burke's work can easily pick up If You Were Here, and boy are you in for a treat when you do. Those who, like me, have followed her career almost from the start will be cheering not only for McKenna but for Alafair. Damn, you hit your A-game on this one, Professor Burke!
If You Were Here is available in hardcover (ISBN: 978-0062208354) from Harper. An unabridged audio (ISBN: 9780062280657), narrated by Roxanne Hernandez, is available from Harper Audio.
My review is part of the TLC blog tour. You can find additional reviews of If You Were Here at the TLC site.
Disclosure: In recent months I have begun doing some contractual work for one of the owners of TLC Blog Tours. My work does not involve this tour or any other tour I would agree to be a part of here at the blog. Nor does my work with them obligate me to a specific kind of review. The reviews are still my own opinions and reflect only my thoughts on the novels. If you care to read more, you can find more information on my Disclosure page.