Get Blog Posts Via Email

View RSS Feed


LITTLE DEATHS by Emma Flint: Book Review

If a woman drinks too much, has multiple affairs with married men while she herself is married, and leaves her children alone at night while she’s at work, she’s definitely not a candidate for Mother of the Year.  But does that make her a murderer?

Ruth Malone is simply too attractive, too sensual for her own good.  She married young in order to leave the unpleasant home she shared with her mother, had two children in quick succession, and now realizes she wants more out of life.  Her part-time job as a cocktail waitress makes it easy for her to attract men, and she has no scruples about wearing provocative clothing and lots of makeup to enhance her already sultry looks.  She does love her young children, Frankie and Cindy, but their neediness is often more than she can handle.  Sometimes she has to take long walks at midnight or sit on the front step smoking, just to breathe and get some time alone.

As Little Deaths opens, Ruth is in prison, trying to deal with the overcrowding, dirt, and smells that overwhelm her every day.  So right from the beginning we know that she’s been convicted of a crime, although we’re not certain what it is.  But that knowledge comes along quickly, as Ruth wakes one morning and the children’s bedroom is empty, the screen pushed out of their first-floor window.  She calls her husband Frank, from whom she is separated, the police, and then her mother, and a search is begun.

It’s not difficult to see that Ruth is desperately unhappy with her life.  She dislikes her mother, has little respect for her estranged husband, can barely make ends meet, and feels overwhelmed by the demands that her children place on her.  She also has no sense of how she appears to others, at least to others she is not trying to seduce.  She ignores her neighbors, dresses very differently from the lower-middle-class women around her, and smokes and drinks way more than is good for her.  Her only outlet is the men she meets while working, men who tip big, buy her drinks, and are happy to take her to a motel for a couple of hours.  But then the same problems start all over the next day.

Little Deaths is Emma Flint’s first novel, hard to believe given the compelling voices of the narrative.  The reader can hardly understand Ruth’s total unawareness of how others, particularly her neighbors and the police, perceive her, but Ms. Flint makes the case convincingly for a woman whose only assets are her looks.  Her heavy makeup and the clothing choices that she makes even after the bodies of Frankie and Cindy are found seem reasonable to her; her goal is to show that she’s strong and in control.

To the police, however, all this is evidence that she’s the one responsible for her children’s deaths.  The detectives see the messy apartment, the trash filled with liquor bottles, and, most damning of all, the suitcase under the bed filled with love notes sent by various men.  They’re convinced that Ruth has killed her children and don’t seriously look any further.  But are they right?

Little Deaths is a debut not to be missed.

You can read more about Emma Flint at this web site.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her web site.


Leave a Reply