Well, Little Deaths was an unexpected powerful little book, that I must say, took me by surprise.
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.
It’s every mother’s worst nightmare. But Ruth Malone is not like other mothers . . .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?
Haunting, intoxicating and heart-poundingly suspenseful, Little Deaths by Emma Flint is a gripping debut novel about love, morality and obsession, exploring the capacity for good and evil within us all.
Little Deaths has a very engaging opening; very early on I was absorbed in its haunting, melancholy tone, and throughout the entire read, this continued to be my favourite thing about the novel. This novel didn’t play out at all how I thought it would. I was expecting a more investigative angle into what happened to Ruth’s children; but, instead it was an investigation into Ruth, an examination of her character. And what was most interesting, was that very little of this information was provided by Ruth herself. Perhaps if I’d have paid closer attention to the blurb, I’d have realised that – I’m not saying that as a negative, but as a realisation, that what Flint has done here, is deliver a unique angle on a familiar theme.
I did find parts of this novel quite slow, and while it reflected how slowly information was revealed, I did find that at times, I was wishing the pace would hurry a little so new information regarding the investigation into what happened to the children would be revealed.
Ruth was a very interesting character, it was clear that she was “broken,” her self-loathing and pain was so evident, but I couldn’t decide if I thought she was innocent or not and so while I wanted to show her compassion, I was reluctant to, just in case she was guilty. This feeling of confliction is something new to me, as usually you find a protagonist, in this situation, instantly unlikeable, or you root for them from the get go – and I found this confliction intriguing and a testament to Flint’s ability to craft a tale.
And, as I mentioned earlier, I love the tone, the sadness, Flint created through her writing:
“They knew nothing of guilt. They were not mothers.”
Out of context the above quote may not seem much, but in context, I thought it was extremely powerful.
The ending to this novel was very clever, and unexpected; it really hit home the themes of this novel: “love, morality and obsession, exploring the capacity for good and evil within us all.” Despite liking so much about this novel, I felt myself feeling underwhelmed when I finished it. But on reflection, I’m not sure it was me being underwhelmed, instead, it was the tone (the melancholy) of the book staying with me, me constantly thinking about what I had read, and in hindsight, it could be viewed as a reflection of the power of this plot. I hope I’m making sense; I don’t want to spoil anything so I’m being as vague as I can.
Little Deaths has a slow pace and I think it’s a book you’re meant to take your time with, absorb slowly, and stay thinking about afterwards – and that’s exactly what I did. I think this book with appeal to fans of Literary Fiction, rather than those looking for a psychological thriller. Yes, there is a mystery here, but it is not central to what this novel is conveying, and if you can get on board with that, I think you’ll really enjoy this one, as I did.