Monday, March 9, 2020
Published January 2020 by Penguin Publishing Group
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review
In a Philadelphia neighborhood rocked by the opioid crisis, two once-inseparable sisters find themselves at odds. One, Kacey, lives on the streets in the vise of addiction. The other, Mickey, walks those same blocks on her police beat. They don't speak anymore, but Mickey never stops worrying about her sibling. Then Kacey disappears, suddenly, at the same time that a mysterious string of murders begins in Mickey's district, and Mickey becomes dangerously obsessed with finding the culprit—and her sister—before it's too late. Alternating its present-day mystery with the story of the sisters' childhood and adolescence, Long Bright River is at once heart-pounding and heart-wrenching: a gripping suspense novel that is also a moving story of sisters, addiction, and the formidable ties that persist between place, family, and fate.
This book opens with a list of people you quickly realize have died as the result of drug use. The final two people on the list? “Our father. Our mother.”
The first paragraph of the first chapter:
“There’s a body on the Gurney Street tracks. Female, age unclear, probable overdose, says the dispatcher.”
And just like that Moore had me. She tugged my heartstrings and then she made my heart start racing. She never let up for almost 500 pages on either score.
It's saying something that Moore was able to keep me caring about these characters given that this is a book filled with characters that aren't entirely likable or sympathetic. But to paraphrase one of the characters talking about the pieces of a chess board, all people are capable for both good and bad. Despite everything that happens, Moore keeps reminding readers of this. Again and again, I would make an assumption about a character about a person being bad or good. Then Moore would make me rethink my opinions. That went both ways as Moore had some tricks up her sleeve that absolutely surprised me.
Because the book moves back and forth between "Now" and "Then," the tension surrounding the murders wanes when we are looking back into Mickey's and Kacey's history. But Moore has no problem amping it right back up when she is ready to do that. I spent a good deal of time worried about Mickey's safety and was clueless about who the murderer might be. Now, if you read a lot of murder mysteries, you might catch wise before Moore revels the identity or if you're familiar with the idea of Chekov's gun. But then Moore throws a lot of red herrings into the waters to throw readers off. If you read this one, I hope you'll let me know when/if you figured it out.
Back to that very first sentence of my review. While this is a book about trying to catch a killer and about the relationship between these sisters and their family, it's the drug epidemic that surrounds it all. For me, that's where the book really excels. Moore has done a lot of research and it shows. She doesn't glamorize drug use nor does she pass judgment on those who have become trapped in that life. Addiction is a topic that I'm very familiar with and I saw in these characters people I have met. I have heard those people take about the demon of addiction. I have talked to people who have been through rehab more than once and seen those people relapse and then fight their way back. I saw those characters in this book and I appreciated that Moore wrote about them in a way that was sympathetic and honest.
I feel confident in saying that this book will be in my top ten at the end of 2020. It's a book I'll be thinking about for quite a while.