Little Deaths by Emma Flint @panmacmillan @picador


Picador 2017


Another book I have picked up purely on the basis of seeing it on Instagram and liking the cover – a good enough reason though, yes? But what is it about…




New York, 1965.  One hot July morning, Ruth Malone wakes to discover her two young children are missing. After a desperate search, the police make a horrifying discovery.


It’s every mother’s worst nightmare – but Ruth Malone is not like other mothers.  Her perfect make-up, provocative clothing, drinking habits and string of affairs arouse suspicion. 


Tabloid reporter Pete Wonicke at first believes the neighbourhood gossip.  But as his fascination with Ruth blooms into obsession, he learns there are two sides to every story…

This was an intriguing story that I hadn’t realised was a work of fiction inspired by true events.  Set in 1965 in Queens, New York, Ruth estranged from her husband lives in a close knit community where everyone knows everyone’s business and gossip is rife.  When her children are missing Ruth is under suspicion, judged from the outset on a moral code perpetuated by men but judged harshly by the sisterhood.  A novice reporter picks up the story but faces criticism for not adhering to the party line and embarks on a solo mission fighting for justice for the enchanting Ruth.

With an average rating on Goodreads of 3.5 I was a little unsure what to expect and wondered if this was another hyped book that had drawn me in.  Not the case, this had a real Big Sleep detective story ring to it, with beat policing and bar deals in the making.  In a male dominated world of police and journalists Ruth is judged for being a woman who does not adhere to stereotypical views of being a mother and her fate is determined and for the police it is just a case of finding the evidence to support this theory.

In a time where women continue to be judged, for their alcohol consumption, their sexual behaviour and their attire this book was enlightening for me in terms of how little has changed in many ways, just the language a little more subtle now and the judgement less overt perhaps.  I would hope these moral codes would not lead to incarceration in the way it did for Ruth but everyday, crimes against women are offset against her behaviour, what part did she play.  And in this book Ruth had lost her children and due to her unwillingness or inability to play the part of grieving mother as expected she paid the price.

The ending of this book was satisfying in terms of the solving of the mystery, loose ends were tied and there were no questions left unanswered and the book was engaging throughout.  Not especially fast paced, more police procedural than thriller with police and journalist doing the investigating.  Definitely recommended and the fact that this was inspired by true events (albeit with a fictional conclusion) added weight to this read for me.

Further reading about the case this book inspired are identified at the back of the book – The Alice Crimmins Case by Kenneth Goss and Ordeal by Trial by George Carpozi Jr.  Essential reading for me for sure!


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