Published by Picador on 12 January 2017 and available to buy here
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.
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 is a gripping novel about love, morality and obsession, exploring the capacity for good and evil within us all.
Little Deaths is one of those books that will make you rant a bit at the world and hold you enthralled from the first page!
This could easily be about 2017, about prejudice and discrimination. The book is actually set in 1965 Queens, New York; a working class neighbourhood. Ruth Malone is imprisoned for the murder of her two young children. Her children went missing from her appartment and were later found strangled. Is she guilty? Is she innocent? What happened to them?
Malone is a truly fascinating character. She is a working class woman, on the brink of divorce with an ex-husband who is determined to get custody. She has a tough life, balancing motherhood with dating and work. Once her children are missing, she continues to behave in ways that are considered entirely inappropriate. She goes out drinking, meeting men and sleeping around. She shops for new clothes, takes care of her appearance and does not cry in public. She should not be behaving in this way, they say. Why is she not grieving or sat at home? It is Malone’s way of coping with loss, looking for love and companionship. She is judged by society. The assumption is that she must be guilty because her behaviour is unacceptable and immoral. She must be responsible for what happened to her children.
This is a story about prejudice in action, in particular of white working class women. It feels incredibly hard to read. This happens today, in exactly the same way. We look and we judge. How is the mother of the missing child acting? What is she wearing? Does she look sad enough? I get the feeling that Malone would get the same treatment, except it would be her Facebook profile that would demonise her in 2017. She would be mocked and misunderstood.
Little Deaths is intelligent and beautifully harrowing. Told from the perspectives of an obsessive journalist and Ruth Malone, this is incredibly dark. It is a social commentary on trial by media.