“After She’s Gone” by Lisa Jackson
Lake Oswego’s Lisa Jackson is the prolific, bestselling author of over 85 novels in the thriller/mystery vein.
Her latest is “After She’s Gone,” the long-awaited third installment in her popular West Coast Series, which features terror and deception up and down the Interstate-5 corridor, from Los Angeles to Falls Creek, Oregon.
The first book in the series, “Deep Freeze,” was published in 2005. In it, popular actress Jenna Hughes left the craziness of Hollywood and her failed marriage behind to begin anew with her teenage daughters in Oregon. But then an obsessive fan tracked her down with a depraved scheme to gain her undivided attention.
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In “After She’s Gone,” daughters Allie and Cassie are grown. Both have gone back to Hollywood to pursue their own careers in the film industry. Cassie’s career has bumped along, interrupted by her on-again/off-again marriage to Oregon rancher Trent Kittle, while little sister Allie has become a superstar.
When both come back to Oregon to do a film on location — Allie as the lead, and Cassie as a minor character — it is not a warm and fuzzy experience. The sisters have always had rivalries over professional success, their mother’s attention, and more. Most recently, there have been rumors that Allie is having an affair with Cassie’s estranged husband.
While they’re on location, the siblings have yet another violent argument. Allie vanishes without explanation, and when her stand-in is shot during a scene that involves gunplay — someone has replaced the blanks with real bullets — all eyes turn to Cassie, the jealous older sister, as the primary suspect.
There isn’t enough proof to arrest her, but after Cassie is harassed by police and paparazzi alike, she checks herself into a psychiatric hospital to get things sorted out.
A few months later, Allie still has not resurfaced, and when Cassie experiences a disturbing dream incident in the middle of the night, she decides to leave the hospital and get to the bottom of her sister’s disappearance.
That’s when other murders begin to occur, and each victim is found with a gruesomely distorted mask of one of Cassie’s family members bound around the face. Cassie is thrown into an ominous world, not unlike the one that had cast such a harrowing shadow across her teenage years. Except this time she is a considered a prime suspect, even while she has reason to fear for her own life.
As always, Jackson knows how to develop an elaborate plot that is positively kinked up with twists and turns. Her investment of time and attention to detail concerning the numerous characters who turn out to be red herrings make this an engaging read for folks who like to try to predict the outcome before the author serves it up to them.
In the case of “After She’s Gone,” one might wish that Jackson had invested the same amount of care in developing a plausible conclusion — that’s the only thing that seems slapdash about an otherwise engrossing tale.
The Bookmonger review appears each week in Take Five. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.