Based on a true story, Emma Flint’s novel focuses on two children who are found dead, with all the evidence suggesting their mother–who lives a somewhat questionable life–is the murderer.
Set in the 1960s, two young children go missing from their quiet neighborhood in Queens. Cindy is found first, strangled to death not far from the home she shared with her mother and brother. Then, soon after that, Frankie Junior’s body is found too, so decomposed that an exact cause of death cannot be determined. An investigation into the children’s deaths begins, but only one suspect emerges.
The police have made up their minds. To them, Ruth Malone, a single mother who earns a living as a cocktail waitress who’s known for being very “friendly” with customers, is obviously guilty. A quick deconstruction of Ruth’s life reveals a woman who shows signs of making questionable decisions and who’s been struggling just to stay afloat in a sea of problems.
Inside Ruth’s home, multiple empty alcohol bottles are found. So is an address book that’s filled to the brim with the phone numbers of different men. And that’s not all, as each new discovery seems to reinforce the police’s theory that Ruth was anything but a caring and loving mother before she allegedly had enough and snapped.
Adding a new narrative to the story is Pete Wonicke, a young reporter who, while trying to make a name for himself, decides to investigate Ruth’s case. Almost immediately, Wonicke becomes fascinated with Ruth, her lifestyle, and the lead detective’s theory. Initially, he sets out to discover why Ruth made the decision to kill her children. But the more he learns about the mother, the more he wonders if she did, in fact, commit the crimes she’s been accused of.
More than anything, Emma Flint analyzes the stigma that people who make edgy decisions and women who live more promiscuously than others are somehow bad people. This in turn forces readers to put themselves under the microscope, too. People aren’t cookie cutters, and some individuals choose to live differently than the normal status quo. Some, for that matter, are forced to due to circumstances out of their control. Then again, who determines what’s considered “normal” anyways?
Throughout the story, multiple characters lend their take and affect the way readers will view Ruth as a mother. Aside from Wonicke, a veteran crime reporter, the lead homicide detective, and multiple neighbors all shed new light on the case in one way or another. Even Frank Senior, who comes across differently than many readers will initially expect him to, adds to the conflicting accounts.
While still a mystery at heart, Flint’s novel has a lot of soul. Little Deaths is a fast, compelling read that will leave readers questioning far more than just who did it and why.
Author: Emma Flint
Pages: 320 (Hardcover)
Publisher: Hachette Books
Release Date: January 17, 2017 (Order Now!)