The hallmark of a successful second novel in a series, I feel, is that you turn the pages even faster than you did the first one. While I very much enjoyed An Easy Death, the series debut, it did feel like a lot of time was spent introducing the alternate history 1930s milieu. With the follow up, A Longer Fall, we jump into the action faster for a thrill ride that is unafraid to critique both racism and sexism in America, historically and through the present day.
I’d rather hoped, at the end of AED, that our gunslinging heroine Lizbeth Rose would leave her Texoma home to check out how things were going in the Holy Russian Empire that takes up the majority of the former United States of America’s western seaboard. Instead she’s signed up with a new crew heading east to deliver precious cargo to Dixie. Lizbeth’s never been to the Deep South before, but has a personal mission in addition to her paying gig: to deliver to the parents of her deceased best friend a picture of their newborn great-grandchild. Galilee was a black woman who fled Dixie after being impregnated (forcibly, it’s suggested) by the white son of her employer. Her parents risked everything to get their teenaged daughter to the relative safety of Texoma, where she wouldn’t be judged or worse for having a biracial child. That child, Freedom, has just had a daughter of his own, and wants to make sure his grandparents have some precious proof that their legacy of resilience thrives free of the yoke of ingrained, institutionalized racism.
But dynamite on the train tracks throws an explosive wrench into the works, and when the members of Lizbeth’s new crew are either killed or incapacitated just outside the town of Sally, Louisiana, Lizbeth once again finds herself the only person left to track down their now-stolen cargo and see that it gets to its destination. There’s one pleasant surprise: the appearance of the HRE wizard, or grigori as they’re disparagingly know, Eli Savarov. Lizbeth hadn’t thought she’d see him again after the completion of the job he’d hired her for mere months ago, but now they’re both on the trail of the missing box she and her crew had been hired to protect and deliver, with precious few clues where to look.
After the whiz-bang opener, Lizbeth and Eli must spend a lot of time not only figuring out their complicated relationship but also navigating the treacherous waters of life in Dixie. Unexpected allies and traitors come to the fore as our intrepid duo set about upending this exploitative, rigidly hierarchical society. I found the writing positively cathartic, even as I did worry a bit at the white savior mentality that tinged the ending. It’s difficult to know sometimes where to walk the line between being an ally and being self-serving, but I feel that given the circumstances of the narrative, Charlaine Harris does her best, and certainly has her heart in the right place. I did especially enjoy her wry observation that capitalism will try to screw over justice movements every time. Also a plus was the decided lack of ridiculous love triangle nonsense, despite the best efforts of that one guy back home.
I’m really looking forward to diving into the latest book in the series next! It’s been so long since I’ve been able to binge-read, but I already have my hands on The Russian Cage, where Lizbeth finally heads west, and am super excited to see what happens next.
A Longer Fall by Charlaine Harris was published January 14th 2020 by Gallery/Saga Press and is available from all good booksellers, including
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