Review of Long Bright River, Jan 2021
BPS review of LONG BRIGHT RIVER, by Liz Moore January 2021
When is crime fiction more than crime fiction? Can we accept that that there can be’ thrill’ without crime? Is a ‘psychological thriller’, or ‘literary crime’ allowed in the same genre? Luckily Liz Moore removes all this need for genre navel gazing by throwing in an early crime scene and making ‘finding the killer’ the wardrobe hanger of the story.
However it remains really the unpadded hanger of a crime novel ( sorry for over extending my metaphor there) and it is the psychological insights and family dynamics that flesh this novel out to be something much more than ‘just’ a crime novel. I understand that selling a book within this genre brings in a host of readers, I was however concerned that it wouldn’t deliver on that front. However from our small number of “ BPS crime readers” , it seemed to satisfy them enough.
Where the book really offers some outstanding material is in the depth of awareness and understanding of the underworld of drug addiction, and just how that affects whole families from cradle to grave.
Our narrator Michaela is the dark horse of this story: her opening gambit is plausible, straight, her concern for her sister genuine and her desire to solve the crime realistic. We feel empathy for her struggle as single mother — the scene in KFC for her son’s birthday is cringingly painful for all — and we were mostly all fully on board with her version of events. Until the reveal, or rather, the gradual changing of her own viewpoint into someone else’s perception of her, which shows us more of the truth. As the story goes on, we realise that actually Kacey is the more honest and likeable sister.
In interview, Liz Moore talks about the constant evaluation of moral right and wrong, about decisions that can seem right but then turn out to be wrong, and about perceptions of right and wrong — this is explored really well in this book.
She also looks at women in so many guises, as every relationship asks for something different: as a daughter, granddaughter, sister, mother, as part of an extended family, or even managing as a single mother. At the heart of every relationship is an acknowledgement that it’s often very complex and tricky. Even peripheral characters such as Simon, and the grandmother, offer a support that appears benign, but which turns out to be damaging and toxic.
Whilst the majority of readers enjoyed or really enjoyed this book, I have to mention that one or two found it decidedly average, having had their fill of “resilience literature” (another whole genre in itself these days) and feeling that the writing was nothing out of the ordinary. The chapter structure and format however, was popular and led to it being a quick and satisfying read.
Liz Moore has written 3 other novels, all very different in subject matter but still dealing with some intensely personal issues:
The Words of Every Song, 2007
The Unseen World, 2016