Book Review: Find Me by Alafair Burke

Stellar characterization and surprising twists abound in Find Me by Alafair Burke, a mystery about a young woman's disappearance and an investigation which leads to more questions than answers.

Alafair Burke is the New York Times bestselling author of fourteen novels, including recent standalones such as the Edgar Award-nominated The Ex, The Wife, and The Better Sister as well as the Ellie Hatcher and Samantha Kincaid series. She also collaborated with Mary Higgins Clark on the five-book Under Suspicion saga. A former prosecutor, Burke teaches criminal law at Hofstra and makes her home in Manhattan and East Hampton. January sees the release of her newest, Find Me (Harper).

It’s the story of two women, Lindsay Kelly and Hope Miller, who share a unique connection that resulted in a fiercely loyal friendship. They have been inseparable since Lindsey found Hope fifteen years ago, thrown from an overturned vehicle on a local highway in the small town of Hopewell, New Jersey. Despite the passage of time, Hope—whose real name and origin story remain lost to amnesia—has no recollection of her past. Fortunately, the townspeople allowed her to forge a new identity with minimal intrusion. But when Hope decides to make a break from this quiet community and begin again in East Hampton, it appears that her previous life may have finally caught up with her when she goes missing.

Hope was last seen in a home she was staging for a real estate showing. Lindsay, now a criminal defense attorney, enlists the begrudging help of neighborhood police officer Carter Decker. When Decker’s conciliatory “investigation” turns up traces of DNA that connect to an infamous Kansas killer, suspicions grow that Hope’s disappearances may have been deliberate (though Lindsay remains steadfast in her dissent). Enter Detective Ellie Hatcher (last seen in 2014’s All Day and a Night), whose father worked the older case—and later died of a gunshot wound, said to have been self-inflicted. Having finally come to terms with her haunted history, Ellie is once again pulled back to a time she’d rather forget as she endeavors to remedy past and present.

Burke tells the story through multiple points of view, which allows her to highlight each character’s motivations (and manipulations) as they work toward the endgame. This approach not only heightens conflict and tensions but strengthens an ensemble in which each person is contextualized rather than serving as a mere convenience. Regardless of some necessary coincidence to tie things together, an intricately developed backstory ensures that the plot comes off as far more clever than contrived. Consequently, the book works well as a standalone or an addition to the Ellie Hatcher canon depending on how readers wish to approach it.

Find Me ranks among Alafair Burke’s best. Stellar characterization and surprising twists abound, but it’s the deft handling of topics such as dissociative fugue—still very much a mystery, which lends itself nicely to genre fiction—and, to a lesser extent, codependency, that provide nuance. Further, the skillful melding of new and old should entertain all readers, regardless of their familiarity level with the author’s previous work, while the theme of identity will resound with anybody who’s ever struggled to find themselves. 

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