Some books have a lot of potential. Some of them exceed them, some of them meet them, and some of them fall short.
I didn’t know anything about Little Deaths before I read it, I just knew that the people who were reading it, liked it.
So, I’m going to give you a head start on me and tell you a bit about it.
Ruth Malone wakes up one morning to find her children are missing, and to no reader’s surprise – the book isn’t called Little Missing, Then Safely Found Again A Few Hours Later, after all – they are found dead.
We follow Ruth, her estranged husband Frank and journalist Pete Wonicke over the following weeks and months (and then years) as the deaths are investigated by Sergeant Devlin.
Facts are twisted, witnesses are manipulated and a sense of grief, then suspicion is shared by the entire community.
The book keeps you guessing, the writing is good, and you get a real sense of time and place, but… did I like it?
It would be generous to say that I did – at most, I didn’t hate it.
So, what didn’t I like about it? It’s hard to put my finger on it. We spend a good chunk of the beginning of the story getting to know Ruth, then we swerve her for quite a large chunk of the book and focus on Pete instead.
This is where the writing I good, we swiftly invest in him as our lead character, his motivations are clear, and the story from his point of view is intriguing. However, he soon becomes obsessed with Ruth, with the story, and we don’t really understand why.
At first, I went with it, thinking it would lead somewhere, that maybe it would uncover something about Pete that we didn’t yet know, but from thereon Pete doesn’t really develop as a character.
The two barely interact, and when we do subsequently jump back to Ruth’s point of view, it jars. The ending isn’t particularly satisfying either.
I can only think that the point of the story was to delve into the witch hunt that is taken against Ruth, a woman of seemingly loose morals, but again, there seems to be no real pay off to that strand either.
The reveal of the murderer comes several years after the children’s deaths and is a bit of a so-what moment. I didn’t feel it added anything to the story to reveal who it was – possibly because I’d got to the point of not caring, but also because I like the ambiguous nature of Ruth.
The way it is done as well is somewhat anticlimactic – one character asks another if they did it, and they reply that they did.
Four years it took someone to think to ask.
Like I said, some books have a lot of potential. This, doesn’t quite get there, however, it feels like an early draft of a good book.