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posted: 6/22/2013 6:00 AM

Alafair Burke has written another puzzling tale

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Associated Press

"If You Were Here: A Novel of Suspense" (Harper), by Alafair Burke

Alafair Burke has written another puzzling and captivating tale with her latest novel, "If You Were Here."

McKenna Wright, a writer for New York City magazine, is investigating a corrupt judge when she hears of a woman rescuing a teen who had fallen onto subway tracks. After the woman pulled him to safety, she ran away. Cameras in the area malfunctioned, and the only video Wright sees is from a shaky cellphone.

Watching the blurry images, McKenna believes the woman is her friend Susan Hauptmann. However, that would be impossible, because Susan disappeared 10 years ago.

The more McKenna looks into what happened, the more she appears to be thwarted. The cellphone video vanishes, and the article she was writing about the judge blows up in her face. Her husband doesn't believe her. Neither do the police. With nowhere to go, McKenna decides the answers are 10 years in the past.

What she finds will not be pleasant.

Alafair Burke excels in writing compelling character-driven stories mixed with baffling mysteries. It's difficult at times to understand why Susan was McKenna's best friend and how their friendship endured under such bizarre circumstances, but that's a minor quibble. The questions raised -- such as how the individual matters in the overall grand scheme of things and how one person can influence many lives -- will have introspective readers looking in the mirror while they try to solve the mystery.

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