Here’s another book recommended to me through the blog Sci-Fi and Scary that I read and liked. Actually, Sian, who reviewed the audiobook convinced me to try this on audio, which is really saying something because I try to avoid listening to new-to-me books on audio but because she described it as an “unsettling character driven mystery with a lot of suspense,” I decided to dip in and give it a try. Plus, I wanted something to listen to while working, so I didn’t mind tackling this.
Two sisters travel the same streets, though their lives couldn’t be more different. Then one of them goes missing.
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. (Goodreads)
Addiction, especially the opioid crisis, is a topic that will get me curious about any book or show. It’s an issue that has ravaged many communities and families, so I’m always curious to learn more, to see how information about it is presented, and to see what angles an author or other creator take when presenting this issue.
Long Bright River is a mystery (and I guess it could be considered a thriller… many on Goodreads have classified it as such) about a young woman who works as a cop in Philadelphia and is searching for her sister, who’s addicted to drugs and has disappeared. Michaela, a.k.a. Mickey, fears that her sister, Kacey, who sometimes works as a prostitute to support her addiction, may have died.
The sisters were close when they were younger. They grew up with their grandmother because their mother passed when they were kids and they were told that their father left after that. Mickey is the older of the two and always looks out for her impulsive younger sister. However, when the story begins, the sisters have been estranged from each other for some time.
The story takes its time unravelling its mysteries: who’s behind the series of murders and the questions about Mikey and Kacey’s past the reader develops as she learns more about the characters. The story has a slow build and the narration matches that. I was sometimes tempted to speed it up so that the narrator reads faster and to give the illusion of a faster story pace, but I kept it at the regular speed because I think the pacing matches Mickey, from whose perspective we read, so it’s slow and it takes it time telling us what happens.
Despite that, I liked the story. It kept my interest and kept me guessing who the murderer is (I suspected everyone, as I usually do) and what may have happened to Kacey. There were some unexpected twists, which worked well to keep me interested, and although all the characters are quite unlikeable (except for maybe the old lady who lives below Mickey’s apartment whose name I can’t remember and can’t look up because I listened to the audiobook, ugh!!), I sympathized with just about all of them (except the murderer dude and the Mickey’s boss, who’s an ass).
I did find it hard to believe Mickey is that naïve about things, though. By the end of the story, I began wondering if her naiveté is actually a defense mechanism to protect her from the harsh truths of her community. However, I sympathized with her throughout the novel because she really just wants to do good and protect those she loves. I also sympathized with Kacey, who tries to do better despite her struggles, and even their bitter grandmother, who must have had a tough time raising two girls on her own and trying to protect them.
It’s a good story that kept me engaged despite its slow pace. I love how the story is told, the slow unravelling of the mystery, and the variety of opinions Mickey encounters about her work and her sister’s addiction; they were very realistic. I also liked the end, that the many things I feared would happen didn’t and that an unrealistic resolution wasn’t included regarding the police hierarchy. The narrator also did a great job in capturing the protagonist’s voice.