Tuesday, June 25, 2024

The Night the River Wept

The Night the River Wept by Lo Patrick
7/2/24; 400 pages
Sourcebooks Landmark

The Night the River Wept by Lo Patrick is a very highly recommended small town Southern murder mystery with a very unlikely investigator.

Arlene, 24, is married to her high school sweetheart, Tommy, and longs to be a mother. The two live in Faber, a small town in Georgia, where Tommy, is in commercial real estate, but does well enough that he is often called a real estate tycoon in town. Tommy loves Arlene and wants the best for her but he also has a drinking problem. After a miscarriage she needs to find a way to keep busy so she applies for a job at the police station and is offered a part time position bagging evidence. Since the job only takes about 20 minutes of work a day, Arlene begins to read the old case files.

One case in particular, the murder of three young brothers on Deck River, an area populated by those with little hope, captures her attention. The murder was followed by the suicide of the main suspect, Mitchell Wright. Arlene gets permission to look into the case and soon believes she could solve the case. Tommy is getting on her nerves with his drinking anyway and the cold case becomes an obsession. She sets out to discover the truth with help from Allaina, who was on the police force at that time, and Ronna, the police department's receptionist.

I really enjoyed The Night the River Wept and I realize I'm a bit of an outlier in how much I enjoyed it. It is a beautifully written novel and captures both a unique, charming Southern setting as the characters deal with personal struggles,loss, growth and redemption while uncovering the truth. The narrative unfolds through the point-of-view of Arlene, diary entries written by Mitchell's sister, and the murderer. Arlene is the main, dominant voice.

I appreciated the humorous dialog and observations throughout the novel. The bulk of the novel is full of grim  insightful and poignant moments in the narrative, but interspersed are gems that left me laughing several times while reading. Patrick captured the dialect of her characters in the dialogue and I could hear them talking as I read. And the stories... like the daughter who left the lineman she was married to, which disappointed her mother because she is a Glen Campbell fan.

Arlene is certainly a flawed character, but, bless her heart, I like her. She's young and she's blaming herself for her miscarriage. Her dream of being a mother has been shattered and seems unobtainable. Arlene is insecure and searching for an adult role model/friend. It is funny and a bit heartbreaking when she attaches herself to Ronna, a woman who has her own issues, and closely follows her behavior in an attempt to be an adult. This includes bringing leftover meatloaf for lunch. She's also dealing with a husband who's frequently drunk by noon. Looking into the cold case gives her a purpose and confidence in herself.

The novel is populated with unique, memorable characters. Arlene is earnest in her role as detective as she looks into the cold case. The investigation into the murder mystery is serious. The small town never really dug deep and tried to truly solve the case. People kept secrets.Thanks to Sourcebooks Landmark for providing me with an advance reader's copy via NetGalley. My review is voluntary and expresses my honest opinion.

No comments: