Bright and Tender Dark

Image of Bright and Tender Dark
Release Date: 
June 4, 2024
Bloomsbury Publishing
Reviewed by: 

The premise for Pearson’s story, Bright and Tender Dark, is a classic whodunit. Karlie Richards is a college student in North Carolina, and she is murdered. It doesn’t take the police long to determine who they think is the murderer—he is apprehended, tried, and convicted. Joy Brunner was Karlie’s freshman-year roommate, and after 20 years, Joy comes across a letter that leads her to believe that Todd, a mentally challenged young man at the time, was convicted and is serving a sentence incorrectly.

Not a bad premise at all. However, the story, as it is laid out, is confusing, and there is no thread for the reader to follow.

If the reader is looking for a well-projected story with a plotline to grasp—red herrings, clues, foreshadowing . . . this is not the book for them.

Every chapter details a character in the book—who they are, what their life has been like, and if they had a relationship with Karlie, what it was. In some instances, the character being detailed has nothing to do with Karlie’s murder. It should be noted that while these narratives are well-written, they are too lengthy and too boring to follow.

Pearson moves the story (and the reader) back and forth from 1999 to 2019 as she attempts to weave the story into an intriguing plot. Instead, she has designed a story that is difficult to follow and leaves the reader wondering exactly where they are going.

Pearson injects various situations into the story, including a religious cult, inexcusable academic relationships, the filming of a documentary, and the possible miscarriage of justice, each designed to entice the reader to follow this impossible story. These issues only create more confusion.

Spoiler alert: The ending reveals who the murderer really is, but there is nothing about a comeuppance or justice for Todd.

If the reader is looking for a character-driven story, they might find this acceptable. If they are looking for a well laid-out story-driven mystery, they will, more likely than not, discover that this story is not to their liking.