It’s 1965 in a tight-knit working-class neighborhood in Queens, New York, and Ruth Malone–a single mother who works long hours as a cocktail waitress–wakes to discover her two small children, Frankie Jr. and Cindy, have gone missing. Later that day, Cindy’s body is found in a derelict lot a half mile from her home, strangled. Ten days later, Frankie Jr.’s decomposing body is found. Immediately, all fingers point to Ruth.
As police investigate the murders, the detritus of Ruth’s life is exposed. Seen through the eyes of the cops, the empty bourbon bottles and provocative clothing which litter her apartment, the piles of letters from countless men and Ruth’s little black book of phone numbers, make her a drunk, a loose woman–and therefore a bad mother. The lead detective, a strict Catholic who believes women belong in the home, leaps to the obvious conclusion: facing divorce and a custody battle, Malone took her children’s lives.
Pete Wonicke is a rookie tabloid reporter who finagles an assignment to cover the murders. Determined to make his name in the paper, he begins digging into the case. Pete’s interest in the story develops into an obsession with Ruth, and he comes to believe there’s something more to the woman whom prosecutors, the press, and the public have painted as a promiscuous femme fatale. Did Ruth Malone violently kill her own children, is she a victim of circumstance–or is there something more sinister at play?
Inspired by a true story, Little Deaths, like celebrated novels by Sarah Waters and Megan Abbott, is compelling literary crime fiction that explores the capacity for good and evil in us all.
IF YOU LIKE SUSPENSEFUL PAGE-TURNING BOOKS, YOU MUST READ LITTLE DEATHS.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, I want to start off by saying that I loved this book. I was a bit hesitant at first when I was trying to decide if I wanted to read it because I wasn’t sure if I would like the classic crime noir feel. With that being said, I’m so happy that I decided to give Little Deaths a shot!
When I initially started to read this book I did not realize that the story is based on details from a real case. For me, this added a whole new level of excitement to the book and it caused me to spend entirely too much time looking up details of the case. The story is just that compelling!
One reaction that I was not anticipating when I initially picked up this book was the pure rage that I experienced as a result of the prejudice and scrutiny that the main character experienced from the police and the media. As a feminist, I became enraged with the idiocy of the way that Ruth was treated and the unfairness of it all. I am aware that women were often subjected to harsh judgments, prejudice, and inequality in the 60s; however, this book brought these issues to the forefront of my awareness in a way that I had never experienced before and the anger that I felt as a result was extremely overwhelming at times.
In terms of the story itself, I found the character development to be superb and while the plot was a bit slow it still achieved the suspenseful purpose of shocking me entirely with the unexpected ending. Seriously, I did NOT see that coming… So, if you’re in the mood for a good suspense novel with an old classics feel, look no further.
Note: I received an advanced reader copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest reader review. The opinions expressed herein are entirely my own.