Oddly enough this is the second consecutive book that I read set in the mid nineteen sixties. Little Deaths finds us in Queens, New York. Ruth Malone is a single mother and a cocktail waitress. Divorced from her husband Frank, he is fighting her for custody of their children Frankie Junior and Cindy.
Ruth is an interesting woman who was never going to be able to settle for suburban bliss. Feeling trapped in her marriage and by her needy young children she needs to escape to her job in the bar just to feel alive. Flirting with the customers makes her feel normal and leads to a couple of unwise relationships.
One morning Ruth walks into her children’s bedroom and the two beds are empty. The children are missing. When the police arrive to investigate and find the missing children they make immediate assumptions about Ruth as a parent. Her house is dusty and untidy, the garbage is full of empty alcohol bottles but Ruth herself is immaculate. Impeccably dressed in an attractive way and with full make-up on she doesn’t fit their preconceptions of a scared and frightened mother.
When the body of little Cindy is found a short distance from the apartment that same day the speculation about what happened has already started. Letters have been uncovered in Ruth’s room between her and a number of men, men who aren’t her husband, and soon she is painted as a woman of loose morals. A good time girl whose children were getting in the way.
Much of the story is from the point of view of Pete Wonicke, a rookie reporter on a New York tabloid. He has wrangled his way onto the story in the absence of the senior reporter and it soon starts to take over his life. As the police struggle to find the evidence that they need to convict, Pete finds himself on a mission to find out the truth. He is convinced that Ruth is innocent.
It isn’t always the easiest story to read. The murder of young children is never a pleasant subject and it was even worse to discover that Little Deaths is actually based on a real life case in New York. I found myself reading everything I could find on Alice Crimmins. This is a fascinating whodunnit that I couldn’t put down and the final twist will take your breath away.
Supplied by Net Galley and Picador in exchange for an honest review.
UK Publication date: Jan 12 2017. 320 pages.