I recently had a week away in Italy. Whilst some of my holidays are about lazing around by the pool reading, this trip was more about going out and doing *stuff*, but I did still manage to factor in some reading time!
I’ve separated the mini-reviews of my holiday reads into two posts, and I’ll be posting part II tomorrow.
Little Deaths by Emma Flint
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.
I was absolutely delighted to win a copy of Little Deaths recently – it’s a novel that I’ve had my eye on since its publication earlier this year, and I’m pleased to say that I really enjoyed it.
Ruth is an absolutely fascinating character. Adamant from the beginning that she did not harm her children, she also seems strangely reluctant to defend herself, trusting that justice will serve and the real culprit will eventually be found. This, combined with her unwillingness to show any form of emotion in front of anyone – police, neighbours, family – means that she is perceived as being unaffected by the disappearance of her two children. The reader has more insight, although Flint cleverly leaves it open as to whether she might have responsible.
Ruth is never seen without make up and immaculate, if occasionally provocative, dress, and these factors also lead to speculation that she feels that she is better off without her children. She is judged harshly by both men and women, and is seen as something of a scarlet woman, out to get her claws into any man she can. You can see how this becomes something of a self-fulfilling cycle – she is judged harshly, and so has to put on a mask (both physical, in the form of her make up, but also to mask her emotions), which then leads to further speculation and gossip.
It’s clear that the police officer in charge of the case, Devlin, is against her from the very beginning. Again, I felt that his character, whilst secondary, was brilliantly portrayed. As the reader, I was sympathetic towards Ruth, and yet some of the evidence presented by Devlin does suggest that there’s more to the case than meets the eye, and more than Ruth is sharing with the reader.
This is a wonderfully clever novel, with brilliantly realised characters who come across as being all too human, with everything that entails. Highly recommended.
Many thanks to Emma Flint for the copy of Little Deaths which I won in a Twitter giveaway.
Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
The Fourth Monkey by J. D. Barker
Se7en meets The Silence of the Lambs in this dark and twisting novel from the author Jeffery Deaver called, “A talented writer with a delightfully devious mind.”
For over five years, the Four Monkey Killer has terrorized the residents of Chicago. When his body is found, the police quickly realize he was on his way to deliver one final message, one which proves he has taken another victim who may still be alive.
As the lead investigator on the 4MK task force, Detective Sam Porter knows even in death, the killer is far from finished. When he discovers a personal diary in the jacket pocket of the body, Porter finds himself caught up in the mind of a psychopath, unraveling a twisted history in hopes of finding one last girl, all while struggling with personal demons of his own.
With only a handful of clues, the elusive killer’s identity remains a mystery. Time is running out and the Four Monkey Killer taunts from beyond the grave in this masterfully written fast-paced thriller.
The Fourth Monkey is another book that I won recently in a giveaway from Zuky @ bookbum.co.uk.
I won’t go in to the plot too much, as I’d hate to give away any spoilers of the novel, but this is a dark and twisty thriller that alternates between the investigation into the killer following his death as well as the race against time to find his latest victim, and the diary found on his body. I found both parts of the story (which come together nicely by the end of the novel) to be equally thrilling, albeit quite different to each other in tone. The investigation moves at a fast pace, given the need to find the latest victim before it’s too late, whilst the diary is a little slower, yet giving an insight into the mind of the serial killer and exploring how he came to be what he is.
I loved Barker’s characterisation, and Sam Porter, our lead detective, in particular, who has been hunting this serial killer since the very first case some five years ago. It struck me as a little unusual to have a slightly older detective on the case, rather than some hotshot fresh out of the academy, and I really enjoyed this aspect of the novel. Additionally, the banter between those involved in the case is brilliant – I loved the camaraderie between them, and there are some witty one-liners in this novel.
I have to admit that I did anticipate some of the twists that this novel took, although it’s still a thrilling ride, and a surprisingly quick read to say that it’s some 400+ pages long.
Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
This Savage Song by V. E. Schwab
There’s no such thing as safe in a city at war, a city overrun with monsters. In this dark urban fantasy from author Victoria Schwab, a young woman and a young man must choose whether to become heroes or villains—and friends or enemies—with the future of their home at stake. The first of two books.
Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city—a city where the violence has begun to breed actual monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the humans pay for his protection. All August wants is to be human, as good-hearted as his own father, to play a bigger role in protecting the innocent—but he’s one of the monsters. One who can steal a soul with a simple strain of music. When the chance arises to keep an eye on Kate, who’s just been kicked out of her sixth boarding school and returned home, August jumps at it. But Kate discovers August’s secret, and after a failed assassination attempt the pair must flee for their lives.
Regular readers of my blog will know that I’m a big fan of Schwab’s work, and whilst I didn’t enjoy this novel quite as much as her others (I’m not sure she will ever surpass her Darker Shade of Magic trilogy!), it’s still a fantastic read.
They say that violence begets violence, and so it proves to be the case in This Savage Song, in which violence begets not only violence, but savage monsters that manifest whenever a serious crime is committed. I absolutely love this idea, and it’s one that I’ve not come across elsewhere.
As always, Schwab’s characterisation and world-building is second to none. Kate and August, our two main protagonists, are very different to each other, and yet are thrown together and forced to go on the run following an assassination attempt. Kate and August come from separate sides of the city, and are part of each side’s “ruling family”, and there’s something reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet about this aspect of them. But, this book has no romance, which I loved. It’s so unusual, but I think that it’s great to see that boys and girls can just be friends. Not that August is any normal boy…
I did find the novel a little slow to start, and I think that it’s partly because it took me a little while to understand the world in which it’s set, although the pace does soon pick up. I’m really looking forward to reading the second novel in the duology, Our Dark Duet.
Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐