Book review: Charlaine Harris imagines a bleak new world in 'The Longer Fall'
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Book review: Charlaine Harris imagines a bleak new world in 'The Longer Fall'

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"A Longer Fall" by Charlaine Harris; Saga Press (320 pages, $26.99).

"A Longer Fall" by Charlaine Harris; Saga Press (320 pages, $26.99). (Simon & Schuster/TNS)

"The Longer Fall" by Charlaine Harris; Saga Press (320 pages, $26.99)

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Charlaine Harris has proven herself to be a master at creating alternative worlds and populating them with believable characters, no matter how fanciful, and plots that complement these worlds. She did that by inventing the urban fantasy subgenre with her successful Sookie Stackhouse/True Blood series filled with vampires, werewolves and a telepathic barmaid.

Now in her Gunner Rose novels, Harris tackles a different kind of world that is far removed from supernatural creatures. Instead, Harris has created an alternate history set in a broken-up United States following Franklin Roosevelt's assassination. Poverty and racism are widespread; magic really happens, though not widely embraced.

Tenets of the Western, science fiction, mystery and magical realism meld in this new series of which "A Longer Fall is the second installment.

No vampires in this bleak dystopia - though one might be welcomed. But there is a commonality between the two series' heroines. Sookie and the young bodyguard Lizbeth "Gunnie" Rose are physically slight but both are strong in body and mind.

"A Longer Fall" finds Gunnie and her new crew hired to protect a mysterious crate and move it from Texoma to Sally, a town in Dixie. Following a train derailment and a violent shootout, the crate disappears, leading Gunnie to suspect that one of her mercenary guards has betrayed the team.

To find the crate, Gunnie and her sometimes lover Eli Savarov go undercover in a town that embraces the 19thcentury's society norms. The town is not ready for someone as independent as sharp-shooter Gunnie nor Eli, who is a Russian prince skilled in magic. Especially when Eli wants to help Sally's oppressed black residents who are controlled by a white family. Enemies come from different factions, including Russian wizards, or grigoris.

The Gunner Rose series requires readers to embrace suspension of disbelief. But the payoff is well worth it as Harris creates new countries, different timelines and challenges. Harris' imagination is on high alert as she takes chances with "A Longer Fall" and her characters. Gunner Rose - few dare to call her Lizbeth - has seen way too much for a 19-year-old, but has little choice if she is to survive this brave new world. Her common sense and fine eye and steady hand with a rifle serve her well as does her compassion for others.

Harris' aim is true in "A Longer Fall."

Visit the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) at www.sun-sentinel.com

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