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Long Bright River by Liz Moore

Long Bright River

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by Liz Moore

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Quick take

A gritty cop tale with an up-close-and-personal look at Philadelphia's opioid crisis and the lives it's destroying.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Police


  • Illustrated icon, Icon_400

    400+ pages

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_SocialIssues

    Social issues

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Whodunit



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.

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Free sample

Get an early look from the first pages of Long Bright River.
Long Bright River


There’s a body on the Gurney Street tracks. Female, age unclear, probable overdose, says the dispatcher.

Kacey, I think. This is a twitch, a reflex, something sharp and subconscious that lives inside me and sends the same message racing to the same base part of my brain every time a female is reported. Then the more rational part of me comes plodding along, lethargic, uninspired, a dutiful dull soldier here to remind me about odds and statistics: nine hundred overdose victims in Kensington last year. Not one of them Kacey. Furthermore, this sentry reproves me, you seem to have forgotten the importance of being a professional. Straighten your shoulders. Smile a little. Keep your face relaxed, your eyebrows unfurrowed, your chin untucked. Do your job.

All day, I’ve been having Lafferty respond to calls for us for further practice. Now, I nod to him, and he clears his throat and wipes his mouth. Nervous.

—2613, he says.

Our vehicle number. Correct.

Dispatch continues. The RP is anonymous. The call came in from a payphone, one of several that still line Kensington Avenue and, as far as I know, the only one of those that still works.

Lafferty looks at me. I look at him. I gesture to him. More. Ask for more.

—Got it, says Lafferty into his radio. Over.

Incorrect. I raise mine to my mouth. I speak clearly.

—Any further information on location? I say.

After I end the call, I give Lafferty a few pointers, reminding him not to be afraid to speak plainly to Dispatch—many rookie officers have the habit of speaking in a kind of stilted, masculine manner they have most likely picked up from films or television—and reminding him, too, to extract from Dispatch as many details as he can.

But before I’ve finished speaking, Lafferty says, again, Got it.

I look at him. Excellent, I say. I’m glad.

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Why I love it

Unpopular opinion—I usually stay away from crime novels or thrillers because I like a happy mind-vacation when I read. However, when I sat down to tackle Liz Moore’s latest, Long Bright River, I realized that this book is the intersection of everything I love to read—a family saga with complex female characters, twists that you never see coming, and it’s equal parts heartfelt and suspenseful. It was like watching The Wire, reimagined by Tana French.

Mickey, a single mother and a cop, patrols the narcotics-filled streets of Kensington, partially in an effort to watch over her younger sister, Kacey, who is an addict. When Kacey goes missing, right around the time a string of sex workers turn up murdered, Mickey must use everything she’s learned about addiction and the drug trade to try to find her sister.

It took me longer to write this review than it did to read all 480 pages of Long Bright River, because I agonized over how to adequately describe and do it justice. You’re just going to have to trust me on this—you will not be able to put this book down. A fast-paced and visceral exploration of how we deal with our inner demons, this story about the lengths we will go to protect our loved ones will keep you hooked until the very last page.

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Member ratings (14,307)

  • Christine S.

    Pittsburgh , PA

    I loved how it was broken into “Then”&“Now” chapters. Both helped to unravel the mystery in an interesting way. It’s slow paced, but it kept my attention. The outcome to the case really surprised me!

  • Carin H.

    Dayton, OH

    Tragically sad, relatable, a mix of mystery, drama, and the every day. The characters of this novel were well developed and the way the story was told in the ‘then’ and ‘now’ added to my love of them.

  • Stefanie R.

    Plano, IL

    I really liked this book from the beginning. Kept me hooked and I couldn’t put it down! There were some good plot twists I didn’t see coming and couldn’t wait to see how the end played out. Great pic!

  • Erin A.

    Ann Arbor, MI

    I couldn’t put this book down. Fascinsting and complicated relationships set inside of the heavy subject of the American opiod crisis it’s an easy read that draws you in, and will leave you thinking.

  • Samantha F.

    Astoria, NY

    This book was a heartbreakingly beautiful story about family, sexual abuse, and addiction. More than anything, it’s about two sisters who are trying their best in different ways. Couldn’t put it down!

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