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Little Deaths

Little Deaths

2.8 4
by Emma Flint

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"Gripping."Maureen Corrigan, Washington Post


"Mesmerizing."—Associated Press

It's 1965 in a tight-knit working-class neighborhood in Queens, New York, and Ruth Malone—a



"Gripping."Maureen Corrigan, Washington Post


"Mesmerizing."—Associated Press

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?

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.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
★ 10/10/2016
One of New York City’s classic tabloid crime cases—cocktail waitress Alice Crimmins’s controversial conviction for the 1965 murders of her two young children—becomes the springboard for British author Flint’s affecting, achingly beautiful debut. That Ruth Malone, a separated single mom, leads an active sex life, including trysting with married men while her five-year-old Frankie Jr. and four-year-old Cindy remain home alone, locked in their bedroom, makes her the only suspect police seriously look into after her estranged husband reports the youngsters missing. And yet the deeper that fledgling crime reporter Pete Wonicke digs into the story, the more he becomes convinced that while Ruth may be guilty of many things, killing her kids isn’t among them. Eschewing easy answers or Perry Mason miracles, Flint focuses squarely on Ruth’s stiflingly straitened life in working-class Queens, close enough to gaze at the bewitching lights of Manhattan yet distant enough to feel marooned in another galaxy. This stunning novel is less about whodunit than deeper social issues of motherhood, morals, and the kind of rush to judgment that can condemn someone long before the accused sees the inside of a courtroom. Agent: Jo Unwin, Jo Unwin Literary Agency (U.K.). (Jan.)
From the Publisher
offers vivid,
psychologically convincing portraits of memorable, multifaceted characters... Even minor details and characters are fully realized. This impressive debut novel is as much literary fiction as it is a compelling mystery."—Mystery Scene

"This taut thriller really shines when it goes deep into Ruth's head, revealing not only her grief and despair over her loss but also her chafing at the conformist culture that pronounces her 'guilty in the beauty parlors, the backyards, and the kitchens of Queens.'"—Oprah.com

Library Journal
★ 11/01/2016
Alluring Ruth Malone lives an unconventional life for a single mother with two young children. In her tiny apartment in 1965 Queens, NY, heavy smoking and hard liquor abound, and her ex-husband is concerned about her succession of lovers. With her short skirts and low necklines, Ruth, a striking cocktail waitress, doesn't present well in the court of public opinion. When her children go missing and are found dead, detectives believe Ruth committed this horrific crime. Only a rookie reporter is convinced that the cops might be on the wrong track. A harsh, overbearing detective builds the case against Ruth, and tension painfully saturates the investigation as inflammatory evidence slowly comes to light. When the story reaches its quiet yet stunning denouement, this strangely sympathetic heroine will earn reluctant readers' respect. Inspired by true events, Flint explores how people respond to extreme circumstances and how quick observers can be to judge. VERDICT This accomplished debut novel will intrigue fans of both true crime and noir fiction. Flint, a technical writer in London, is a welcome addition to the world of literary crime fiction. Readers of Megan Abbott may want to investigate. [See Prepub Alert, 7/11/16.]—Gloria Drake, Oswego P.L. Dist., IL
Kirkus Reviews
One hot summer in New York, 1965, a sexy, troubled cocktail waitress is suspected of murdering her children.Flint's debut novel begins in a prison cell, where Ruth Malone struggles to awaken from a dream of her old apartment building in Queens—putting on her makeup in the bathroom, smoking her first cigarette of the day, "the blast of Gina's radio overhead, Tony Bonelli's heavy tread on the stairs….Nina Lombardo yelling at her kids next door." This is where it happened, where one morning in July she unlatched her children's bedroom door to find them gone. Cindy and Frankie, ages 4 and 5, not in bed with a storybook, not snuggled together under their blue blanket, but disappeared. Within days their bodies are found in a dump and a nearby woods, strangled, decomposed. Having heard the story from Ruth's point of view, the reader is assured of her innocence, though a self-righteous belief in her guilt is shared by many of her neighbors, the media, and, most importantly, the lead detective on the case, who is absolutely determined to "crack that whore." She is believed to be a bad mother, a woman who goes to too many bars, sees too many men, drinks too much booze, a woman who has recently dumped her husband even though he was ready to forgive her for cheating on him. Her only significant ally is a young newspaperman who at first sees the case as the key to launching his career but becomes so obsessed that he quits the paper to try to prove Ruth's innocence. Since we know where it begins, it seems we know how it must turn out—but there are a few surprises left. Sharply rendered literary noir, compelling enough to forgive a slightly left-field resolution.

Product Details

Hachette Books
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.20(d)

What People are Saying About This

New York Times bestselling author of One Less Problem Without You - Beth Harbison
"An absolutely gripping debut! Emma Flint spins a lyrical tale of horror and suspense in the vivid and thick atmosphere of 1965 Queens. Even after I finished, the story would not leave me. I cannot wait to read more from this talented author."
From the Publisher

“I absolutely believed in the setting: the sleaze, the corruption, and the glamour. The dialogue is pitch perfect and Ruth Malone is a complex and fascinating character. This is a novel about sex, obsession, and discrimination, but it's also a thriller that keeps you guessing until the last page.” -Ann Cleeves

“A gripping read that is at the same time deeply real. A beautifully written and realized debut. I absolutely loved it.” —Kate Hamer, author of The Girl in the Red Coat

“I couldn't put it down . . . So utterly satisfying, intriguing, and brilliant that everything else falls short. I can't wait for Emma Flint's next book.” —Emma Chapman, author of How To Be a Good Wife

“Gripping and shattering. Ruth's story will stay with me for the rest of my life.” —Erin Kelly, author of The Poison Tree

“LITTLE DEATHS is a stunning feat . . . Ruth Malone's descent into hell is a riveting tale of bad luck, heartbreak, and prejudice, written with the pace of a thriller and the rich detail of a historical novel.” —Jane Casey, author of The Missing

“Emma Flint's LITTLE DEATHS beguiles readers with a most harrowing crime: two children dead, their mother, Ruth, the likely suspect. Readers will as easily pity Ruth as doubt and denounce her, as Flint seduces us with a gem of a whodunit, making us question our every instinct. Deeply moody and moving, LITTLE DEATHS embodies the role of women in the sixties, especially those who dared to deviate from societal norms.” —Mary Kubica, New York Times bestselling author of The Good Girl

“An absolutely gripping debut! Emma Flint spins a lyrical tale of horror and suspense in the vivid and thick atmosphere of 1965 Queens. Even after I finished, the story would not leave me. I cannot wait to read more from this talented author.” —Beth Harbison, New York Times bestselling author of One Less Problem Without You

“Utterly atmospheric and with style to burn, Emma Flint's LITTLE DEATHS is a novel that troubles and transfixes from its simmering first pages all the way to its searing final words.” —Megan Abbott, author of You Will Know Me

“LITTLE DEATHS is a rarity: a period piece and police procedural that is wrenching and real and deeply moving. I fell fast and hard under the spell of this lush, moody, film noir of a novel.” —Chris Bohjalian, New York Times bestselling author of The Guest Room, The Sandcastle Girls, and Midwives

“A phenomenal achievement. LITTLE DEATHS is one of those so-very-rare accomplishments: a lightning fast, heart-pounding, psychologically resonant crime novel that effortlessly transcends genre. If you believed that literary fiction can't be a one-sitting read, think again.” —Jeffery Deaver

Meet the Author

Emma Flint was born in Newcastle upon Tyne in northeast England. She studied English and History at the University of St Andrews and is a graduate of the Faber Academy writing program in London. Since her childhood, Flint has read true-crime accounts, developing an encyclopedic knowledge of real-life murder cases and of notorious historical figures, as well as a fascination with unorthodox women—past, present and fictional. Flints works as a technical writer in London, where she lives. Little Deaths is her first novel.

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Little Deaths 2.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Twink 19 days ago
Little Deaths is Emma Flint's latest novel. Flint professes that "Since childhood, she has been drawn to true crime stories, developing an encyclopaedic knowledge of real-life murder cases. She is equally fascinated by notorious historical figures and by unorthodox women – past, present and fictional." Those interests are put to good use in Little Deaths. The novel is a fascinating blend of literary mystery, character study and social commentary. Set in 1960's blue collar New York. Ruth Malone is a single working mother of two. She works nights as a cocktail waitress - and yes, she exploits her looks and her body for extra tips. And even when not working, she likes to look good. And so what if she unwinds with a drink now and then. Sex is not a taboo word for her either. Except that one morning she wakes up and her children are missing. Gone. And Ruth's lifestyle, demeanor and attitude all factor into the police's opinion of what happened. The reader knows from the first pages that Ruth is in prison. Flint takes the reader back through the investigation, vilification and conviction of Ruth. Her clothes, her drinking, her carousing, her not behaving 'as she should.' The glimpses into Ruth's past, mind and thinking are fascinating and go far to explain who Ruth is - and why she wears 'armor.' I was sickened by the police investigation, the bullying of the lead officer, the newspaper's bias, the certainty by most of the neighborhood that she is guilty. One reporter doesn't believe she is guilty though and makes it his mission to clear Ruth's name. While Ruth is not perhaps a likeable character, my sympathies were in her corner. And as I read, I realized that really, nothing has changed. Social and public judgement is still there, but has changed venue - appearing online everywhere. Thought provoking for sure - what would be your thinking? Was the ending what I expected? No, not quite. But it absolutely fits. Little Deaths is based on the actual case of Alice Crimmins. Little Deaths is another of Entertainment Weekly's Most Anticipated Books of 2017.
ReadingwithPugs 3 months ago
I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This was an enjoyable read for me. First, this book has an overwhelming "Chicago" (the musical or movie) feel to me from the start. I really liked the picture and setting the author chose. The story takes place in Queens and since I grew up in Queens it was fun reading about all the places that I had been familiar with. However the vibe is of a different time, not the present and I thought the author did a great job of world building for times gone by. This is a story of children that are abducted and how perceptions or appearances can influence your opinions. When I was reading the part about the children and how they were murdered and found it was absolutely heartbreaking. I could feel the hopelessness and heartache of the Mom. In fact it was difficult to read those parts, being a Mom. However I will interject here that this is not really a typical thriller/murder mystery. This is more a story of how certain things that society deems appropriate or not appropriate sway our opinions of people or situations. I think it was an important book to help the reader think, ' am I forming an opinion based on the fact or the perceptions that I am seeing'? This is a major problem in today's society and with media sensation, so I think it was very appropriate reading. The only problem I had with the book was that it was not the typical thriller that I was expecting it to be. It didn't really give you the "who done it" vibe, that was really just a secondary plot point. Overall it was a good book and I'm happy to have read it and will try more books by Emma Flint.
Anonymous 15 days ago
Ssounds good but authors style just poor. I was not moved by any of the characters. Couldnt bring myself to care. Will read true story instead.
Anonymous 3 months ago
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