Monday, November 06, 2017

Review: Little Deaths by Emma Flint (audio)

Title: Little Deaths
Author: Emma Flint
Narrator: Lauren Fortgang, Graham Halstead
Published: January 2017, Hachette Audio
Length: 10 hours 17 minutes
Source: Library

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.

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?

My thoughts: I had been hearing a lot about this book, so as soon as I saw it was available at my library, I requested it. I was intrigued by the fact that it was based on a real story - I haven't read a lot of true crime and was interested to see how much of this would be fact versus fiction.

I was pulled into this one right from the start. I found Ruth to be quite an interesting character...her children are first found to be missing and then discovered to have been killed. Yet, throughout it all, she really shows quite a lack of emotion and grief. Is that just the way she is in general or because of her profession or is there more to her than meets the eye? I just couldn't get a good read on her and it made me all the more intrigued by her. 

And then there's the other narrator, the young reporter, Pete. He is definitely struggling with this case as he wants this to be the case that finally helps make a name for himself, yet he also feels there's more to this case than meets the eye. He's not quite sure how to play this one. On top of that...he's developed a little bit of an obsession with Ruth. Is it just that he wants to see justice served or that he's developed a little crush?

The way this story is told, I found myself wavering about Ruth's guilt. Is she guilty or not...I kept going back and forth and with each new discovery, I found myself constantly flipping, much like the reporter was, as he diligently kept digging into this case to write his story. He, unlike the cops investigating, really felt that there was more going on than everyone first believed. 

I don't typically read true crime, but I have to say I enjoyed this one. It's not your typical psychological thriller, but rather an interesting look at a case and the people involved. It also takes a good look at social and public judgment, something that is only too prevalent in today's society. I found this to be thought-provoking as well as haunting...and I will definitely be keeping an eye out for what comes next from Emma Flint!

Audio thoughts: Both these narrators are new to me and they really did a good job with this story. I thought their pacing and tone were spot on and I look forward to seeing what else they narrate. 



  1. This sounds like an intriguing read. With all odds against her, I am sure the result will be surprising.

  2. I read this book, too. But I didn't feel about it the way you did.

    LITTLE DEATHS could have been a good story. Part of the problem with LITTLE DEATHS is the reporter, Pete. He begins covering the story just like every other reporter, misjudging Ruth. Eventually, though, he decides she is telling the truth, then he becomes attracted to her. His actions are never explained adequately, so he is not understandable.

    I guess I could say the same about all the characters in this book. That’s because the whole thing seems rushed, like there isn’t time to explore any of them. This is especially true of the last few pages. The end leaves the reader hanging. Not good.


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