book review: If You Were Here by Alafair Burke

The backstory: This time last year, I read Alafair Burke's first stand-alone novel,  Long Gone (my review.) I spent the rest of last year trying to only read one of her books a month. I failed. I read all eight in only seven months. While I'm still eagerly awaiting more from her two series, featuring attorney Samantha Kincaid and police detective Ellie Hatcher, I eagerly read her second stand-alone mystery, If You Were Here.

The basics: New York City is abuzz with the news of a woman heroically rescuing a young man who fell onto the subway tracks and then running away. When prosecutor turned journalist McKenna Jordan researches the story she discovers someone took cell phone video of the woman, and she looks exactly like McKenna's friend Susan Hauptmann, who has been missing for ten years.

My thoughts: Having read all of Alafair Burke's novels in seven months last year, I'm able to spot some of her patterns, even as she continues to improve her craft. When I sat down to read If You Were Here, I made sure I had pen and paper with me to create a detailed character map. Burke doesn't waste any details: every tidbit is significant, even if doesn't feel that way as you read. Admittedly, I was pretty proud of myself to spot a few trademark twists and turns, but as I bridged connections, I realized doing so made Burke's story even more impressive. As I beat McKenna to a few crucial plot points (admittedly, I was privy to more character's point-of-view than she is), I was even more gobsmacked by the 'how' and 'why'?

In If You Were Here, I questioned everyone at least once. There's something satisfying about knowing who you as a reader can trust, but in this book I cared more about McKenna and her knowing whom she could trust. As a reader, I love encountering characters I can root for, and McKenna is one I'd love to invite to a dinner party and form a lasting friendship with.

Favorite passage: "All those facts were true. But memory was malleable. It was selective. Some facts hardened, and others fell away."

The verdict: If You Were Here is a smart, spellbinding mystery filled with surprises, but Burke elevates it to a higher level with characters and relationships who are as dynamic and complicated as the plot itself.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Length: 384 pages
Publication date: June 5, 2013
Source: publisher

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy If You Were Here from an independent bookstore or Amazon (Kindle version.)

Want more? Check out the entire tour schedule, visit Alafair Burke's website, like her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.

As an affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you for helping to support my book habits that bring more content to this blog!


  1. I do like this author and plan to read this one as well. Even more so after reading your review Carrie.

  2. I love to read books, novel and I have brought so many books through online. And trend has been continue since book

  3. I love to find an author whose work I want to gobble up!

  4. Okay, I may have to give her books a try -- the sound like stressful fun! (In a good way!)

  5. I saw this book at Barnes and Noble today and thought of you. It sounds great and I still need to try her books... The woe of never being able to read all.the.books is never ending, lol.

  6. Ooh hoo, this sounds fantastic! I love that you charted everything and knew what to expect yet were still super impressed. Well done Ms. Burke!

    Thanks for being a part of the tour. I'm featuring your review on TLC's Facebook page today.

  7. The apparent suicide of a teenage daughter of wealthy parents begins a whirlwind of unforeseen consequences. In a world that looks so perfect from the outside, it is almost impossible to imagine what the death of this one girl can unravel. The story is tightly woven and full of twists and turns that are difficult to imagine. It keeps you wanting to read and read. By the end of the book the reader, and the characters, are left to wonder how such deception is possible....yet it all seems very real. There is nothing that feels contrived or impossible about this story. From the initial call by the Mother of the dead girl to the final unraveling of the lives of so many, the author has created a believable scenario. A book well worth reading.

    Irene (Pay Dirt)


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