This is the fourth novel by Liz Moore, a writer who’s previously tackled AI and genetics programs, moves from New York City to the suburbs, obesity, books, and other eclectic stories in both familiar and unfamiliar spaces. Like the two previous novels (I haven’t read her first novel, a refurbished MFA novel) I liked this one a lot, and it feels more similar to her second novel Heft than to her next novel The Unseen World. We begin our narrator, a single mom and police officer in Philadelphia receiving a new partner for a regular patrol shift. We learn from her narration and his constant blabbering that they have responded to a call of a suspected overdose that upon closer examination appears to be a possible homicide. We also learn that in this neighborhood of Philadelphia, Kensington, the rates of deaths from overdoses of opiates has grown sharply in recent years, much to our narrator’s compassion, but also horror, and to the resentment and anger of her new partner, late to being a cop after several divorces. Mckey, our narrator, lasts one day with the new partner when he makes a cutting remark about the dead woman, a likely sex worker. From here we go back and forth between the present and the past as Mickey tells us about her own sister who has worked in sex work, who is an addict and alcoholic, and who has recently disappeared from social media (already estranged from Mickey’s life) and we follow her through this journey as she looks for Kacey, tries to find ways to look for whoever is killing the women of her patrol, and also stay present in her son’s life.
This is structured like a mystery, with clear literary ambitions, and the tight focus on Mickey and a structure that makes more and more sense as we learn more about the details of the family.