Book Review: If You Were Here by Alafair Burke

If You Were Here by Alafair BurkeIf You Were Here: What it is about

The publishers say: “Manhattan journalist McKenna Jordan is chasing the story of an unidentified woman who heroically pulled a teenaged boy from the subway tracks. When she locates a video that captures part of the incident, she thinks she has an edge on the competition scrambling to identify the mystery heroine, but is shocked to discover that the woman in the video bears a strong resemblance to Susan Hauptmann, a close friend who disappeared without a trace a decade earlier.

What would have been a short-lived metro story sends McKenna on a dangerous search for the missing woman—a search that will force her to unearth long-buried truths much closer to home…”

If You Were Here: What I thought

This was my first book by Alafair Burke, who has a number of mystery novels in her name. This sounded like an interesting novel: a woman who thinks she sees her old friend Susan on a video recording at the underground station, although Susan has been missing for ten years.

Of course, as a reader, you’re not going to think it’s not Susan. There wouldn’t be a book if the woman didn’t turn out to be Susan, or at least a look-alike that was interesting enough investigate. The mystery is how this woman came to be “back” from ten years in hiding (if that is who she was and what she did).

However, somehow I wasn’t too interested in Susan. She wasn’t portrayed as a particularly nice person and I found that her friendship with McKenna wasn’t that strong either. The book was written with few emotions, a bit bland, which meant that I didn’t feel very close to McKenna. This style of writing isn’t unlike other mysteries (usually written by men, I think) but that doesn’t take away from the fact that I had a I Don’t Really Care All That Much kind of feel while reading.

The eventual resolution of the story was a bit complicated and not quite convincing to me. I had a hard time trying to follow the train of thought that lead to the reason why Susan had been missing for so long. If you ask me now that I’ve closed to book, I’d need to think really hard to reconstruct that plot line in my head.

I did like McKenna’s interactions with people, for instance with her husband Patrick and with Detective Scanlin, who she knew from the original investigations into Susan’s disappearance. She had to reconsider her opinions about both of them (and they about her), which I found interesting to follow.

Overall I did enjoy reading this book, but the mystery wasn’t as compelling as I’d hoped. I was interested in continuing reading the book at all times, but I didn’t feel strongly about wanting to find out what exactly happened.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars (OK to good)

Number of pages: 368

First published: 2013

I got this: from Harper publishers for review

Genre: mystery

About Leeswammes
I'm owner and editor at In my free time, I read and review books on my two blogs, Leeswammes' Blog and De Boekblogger.

9 Responses to Book Review: If You Were Here by Alafair Burke

  1. Book Blather says:

    It’s really important to connect with the characters or you get bland and emotionless prose no matter how intricate the plot becomes. Sorry this wasn’t the perfect read for you. Lovely review.

  2. bibliosue says:

    From the publisher’s blurb I thought that this might be an interesting story, but after reading your thoughts I am not so sure this book is for me.

  3. Leslie says:

    Neither Susan or McKenna were endearing characters for me. I did like the book as a fast paced, plot driven novel although I agree the end got a little convoluted.

  4. Thanks for this thorough review. I love mysteries, and I haven’t heard of this author.

  5. vicki (skiourophile / bibliolathas) says:

    I haven’t read any Alafair Burke as yet, but I’m keen to have a go. I shall have to do a spot of research, I think. I do like a good meaty mystery.

  6. Athira says:

    I’ve been hearing about this author quite a bit and hope to read one of her books soon. Probably not this one – it hasn’t had that many good reviews.

  7. I’m with you; I need to feel some sort of connection with at least one of the characters. Thanks for the review!

  8. Wendy says:

    Does not sound like a really great book, so I don’t think I will be picking it up

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