Title: Long Bright River
Author: Liz Moore
Published: January 7th 2020
Publisher: Penguin Books Australia
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Crime, Thriller
Rating: 3.5 stars
KENSINGTON AVE, PHILADELPHIA:
THE FIRST PLACE YOU GO FOR DRUGS OR SEX.
THE LAST PLACE YOU WANT TO LOOK FOR YOUR SISTER.
Mickey Fitzpatrick has been patrolling the 24th District for years. She knows most of the working women by name. She knows what desperation looks like and what people will do when they need a fix. She’s become used to finding overdose victims: their numbers are growing every year. But every time she sees someone sprawled out, slumped over, cold to the touch, she has to pray it’s not her sister, Kacey.
When the bodies of murdered sex workers start turning up on the Ave, the Chief of Police is keen to bury the news. They’re not the kind of victims that generate a whole lot of press anyway. But Mickey is obsessed, dangerously so, with finding the perpetrator – before Kacey becomes the next victim.
Liz Moore presents a gritty and raw examination into the opioid crisis that is raging through the Philadelphia neighbourhood depicted in Long Bright River. A story of two sisters who take very different life paths, this literary crime thriller delves in the murky underbelly of drug addiction, prostitution, violence and murder. A slow burn style mystery novel, Long Bright River meanders through a complex minefield of social issues, along with with the overwhelming presence of a killer targeting vulnerable sex workers.
Meet Mickey Fitzpatrick, a patrol officer who has been tirelessly on the beat on the difficult streets of Philadelphia for a significant period of time. Rife with sex workers, drug dealers, crime and poverty, this is hard terrain. As Mickey deals with the constant stream of prostitutes and overdose victims, she is reminded of her wayward sister, who she hopes will not be found in the same circumstances as those she encounters on the streets. But Mickey’s fears for the welfare of her estranged sister Kacey increases when it becomes clear that a killer is targeting the prostitutes on Mickey’s patch. This doesn’t seem to concern Mickey’s superiors, but Mickey is determined to put an end to this perpetrator’s killing spree, in the hopes that she can protect her sister from harm. Mickey puts her life on the line, in her quest to stop this dangerous killer.
Long Bright River has already been making waves in the publishing world since it was released in January. With film rights acquired and the author earmarked to write the screenplay, it seems this novel has attracted plenty of early interest. A couple of my favourite book bloggers have also endorsed Long Bright River, which definitely encouraged me to give this book a whirl.
Long Bright River is a literary style contemporary crime thriller novel from Philadelphia based novelist Liz Moore, who has penned two previous novels, Heft and The Unseen World. I was quite taken with Moore’s reasons for penning Long Bright River, which she outlines in a Dear Reader statement, which I received with my review copy of this book.
‘Long Bright River has been about a decade in the making, but it took me a long time to feel ready to write it. The first seed of the novel was planted in 2009, when the photographer Jeffrey Stockbridge invited me to accompany him to Kensington, Philadelphia, to conduct interviews with the earliest subjects of his series Kensington Blue: men and women who had been drawn to the neighbourhood in search of heroin and other opioids.’
My interest was definitely piqued by this revelation and as I haven’t read anything that covers the opioid epidemic before, I was keen to dive into Liz Moore’s fictional narrative, which is inspired by the real streets of Kensington. Moore covers eye opening ground in this aspect of her novel. With opioids present in communities across America and internationally, Long Bright River is timely and relevant publication. Moore’s book should open up a conversation about the social issues and human side of opioid use. Within the context of her book, Moore examines the personal impact and the wider repercussions of this lifestyle. It did find it fascinating, but also heartbreaking.
A narrative built on the mystery of a missing sister and the hope of one cop, is the focal point of Long Bright River. Through Mickey’s eyes, we see our lead negotiate a dangerous world inhabited by sex workers, dealers, criminals and an insane killer who stalks this novel. Moore’s book is evenly paced and comprised of a number of plot twists. The characters are clearly presented and the police procedural aspect of the tale felt authentic. Moore also interrogates issues such as family trauma, violence, abuse, betrayal, lies, secrets, corruption and the ability to sink or swim in dire circumstances. Each is touched on with insight and sensitivity.
I did encounter an issue with the writing style adopted by the author. I appreciated the short and succinct chapters, but when it came to the dialogue, the author chose to use dashes in the place of quotation marks for the dialogue aspects of this book, which amounted to a fair portion of this novel. I have to admit that I was distracted by this format and unfortunately it disrupted the flow of the novel for me. But this is my own personal issue and it may not bother other readers in the slightest.
In the end, although I valued the author’s intentions with Long Bright River, a book that has been an astonishing ten years in the making. After I closed the book, I was taken by just how sad a place Kensington Avenue proved to be, but unfortunately this locale is only too common. Moore paints a strong and hardened picture of a devastating crisis ripping through the streets of this locale, which could be a representation of any community across the globe. Long Bright River is a noteworthy piece of crime fiction, inspired by pressing real world problems.
Long Bright River by Liz Moore was published on January 7th 2020 by Penguin Books Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of Long Bright River, Liz Moore, visit here.
*I wish to thank Penguin Books Australia for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.
I am offering 1 lucky reader an opportunity to win a copy of Long Bright River, by Liz Moore. Simply leave a comment below on this post on your favourite crime/thriller novel to be entered into this great competition! Good luck!
*Competition open to Australian postal addresses only. Closes Friday 13th March 2020, 11pm (WST).