Fresh from an unexpectedly complicated job in Mexico, Lizbeth Rose is shepherding a mysterious crate from her native Texoma to the nation of Dixie when her train derails and her cargo is stolen. As the only member of her crew left alive and in fighting condition, she attempts to infiltrate the small town of Sally, with the unexpected aid of some old friends from Mexico. Lizbeth must now find her missing cargo, outwit a mysterious order of white supremacists and seek vengeance for the deaths of her crew members. And she must do so in Dixie, accompanied by a Russian wizard pretending to be her husband, and without her precious guns.
A Longer Fall, Charlaine Harris’ sequel to An Easy Death, is just as gritty as its predecessor. Harris’ prose is blunt and uncomplicated, matching Lizbeth’s general sensibility, and lending the novel a welcome readability. This straightforward style meshes well with the first-person narration, implying that the protagonist is relating events in her own words as she remembers them. Each character is filtered through Lizbeth’s biases, resulting in a refreshingly direct story, albeit one in which everyone uses roughly the same cadence and vocabulary and some of the plot twists are foreshadowed into predictability.
The most remarkable aspect of A Longer Fall, though, is the fluency of Harris’ alternate history. Her fractured United States features references to Alexei Romanov’s hemophilia, Russian and Coptic Orthodox theology and the racial dynamics of the Reconstruction-era American South, to name a few. While Texoma communities tend to write their own rules, both Dixie (the former South) and the Holy Russian Empire (California) operate under established hierarchies. In Dixie, these structures are founded on gender and race, while the Holy Russian Empire’s society revolves around religion, genealogy and magical ability. Lizbeth encounters these systems as an outsider both to these specific cultures and to the idea of a firmly hierarchical social structure in general, and her difficulties making sense of them form the central obstacles in both An Easy Death and A Longer Fall. Well, except for the people who keep trying to kill her, of course.