Monday, September 19, 2022

Review: After Everyone Else by Leslie Hooton

What would you do to protect your family? Would you take a murder rap if you were afraid that either your beloved husband or child had done it in your stead? That's the central question at the heart of Leslie Hooton's newest novel, After Everyone Else.

Bailey Edgeworth, a respected, award-winning, Atlanta-based restaurant designer, has just been accused of the murder of her ex-husband in New York City. Her DNA has been found all over his apartment and she is clearly visible on his apartment building's security camera. She has an explanation for all of this and insists that she didn't do it. But she's not being entirely honest with her lawyer and he knows it. The question is, why? If she didn't do it, why isn't she being transparent? Who is she protecting? Her husband Griffin, who was also in New York that night? Their daughter young adult daughter Charlie, who lives in New York and is a recovering alcoholic who had a lapse that night?

Although the novel starts out with Bailey's arrest for murder, this is not really a mystery; it is a family story. With first person narration by Bailey, alternating between "Now" and "Then," the novel moves from the present of the arrest and fact finding with Bailey out on bail to her past, marrying Griffin, starting their family, and achieving major professional success. The past portions of the story are longer and more detailed than the present portions, showing the strength of her love for Griffin and his for her. It also highlights her feelings of inadequacy as a working mother and the difficulties, both large and small, she and Charlie had as Charlie grew up. Bailey's certainty that Griffin wouldn't let her take the fall for him if he had committed the murder quickly removes him as someone who needs her protection but as strong as their love is for each other, she still can't ask him why he was in New York that night. This inability is a major plot point but seems a bit inexplicable given their obvious level of trust.

Hooton has portrayed a strong and good marriage, although it has not been without its challenges, and her portrayal of a mother and daughter at odds is well drawn too. The murder charge plot line, while necessary to the story overall, is the thinnest part of the story. The dialogue, which makes up a large portion of the novel, is a bit stilted with its overwhelming lack of contractions. The level of detail about Bailey's designs helps the reader see her vision and the descriptions of food and drink from both her husband and brother will have the reader heading to their own (probably disappointing) refrigerator in search of a gourmet snack. This is a sequel but it does stand alone (not having read the previous book myself, I can say that with confidence). If you too would protect your family without question and want to lose yourself in a story about love and motherhood and guilt and familial bonds, this might be the book for you.

For more information about Leslie Hooton and the book, check our her author site, follow her on Instagram, look at the book's Goodreads page, or look at the reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.

Thanks to Caitlin from Wunderkind PR for sending me a copy of the book to review.

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