cover image Little Deaths

Little Deaths

Emma Flint. Hachette, $26 (336p) ISBN 978-0-316-27247-6

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.)