By Emma Flint
Published by Picador (Hardback & e-book - 12 January 2017; Paperback - 24 August 2017)
It's the summer of 1965, and the streets of Queens, New York shimmer in a heatwave. One July morning, Ruth Malone wakes to find a bedroom window wide open and her two young children missing. After a desperate search, the police make a horrifying discovery.
Noting Ruth's perfectly made-up face and provocative clothing, the empty liquor bottles and love letters that litter her apartment, the detectives leap to convenient conclusions, fuelled by neighbourhood gossip and speculation. Sent to cover the case on his first major assignment, tabloid reporter Pete Wonicke at first can't help but do the same. But the longer he spends watching Ruth, the more he learns about the darker workings of the police and the press. Soon, Pete begins to doubt everything he thought he knew.
Ruth Malone is enthralling, challenging and secretive - is she really capable of murder?
Little Deaths is a compelling whodunnit set in the 1960s, based on a real case. It's more character led than plot led, with a focus on morality and society at that time. I'd read a lot of hype about this book and was interested to see if it lived up to expectations.
Ruth Malone is a mother on the verge of divorce. She's struggling to make ends meet and wants more out of life. She's prepared to take risks to do so, going beyond society's norms, even when her children go missing. Her neighbours steer clear of her, her soon-to-be ex-husband doesn't understand her and the police suspect her of murder. Little Deaths is a fascinating look at the attitudes of disproving neighbours, intrusive press and bigoted police towards women at the time.
The mystery of what happened to Ruth Malone's two young children intrigued me, with lots of twists, turns and red herrings. The mesmerising writing certainly sucked me into the story straight away. The characters felt very real and the interaction between them is what, for me, kept the story going. Ruth, in particular, was a complex character, judged by her appearance and behaviour rather than what was inside. The period setting was very well described and highly atmospheric, transporting me right into the heart of 1960s New York, with the sights, sounds and smells of city life in the summer heat.
I wasn't 100% sure about the ending, feeling it was a little neat and rushed. But overall, I really enjoyed Little Deaths.