cover image Little Cruelties

Little Cruelties

Liz Nugent. Scout, $28 (352p) ISBN 978-1-5011-8968-5

This artfully constructed but coal-black psychological suspense novel from Irish author Nugent (Skin Deep) opens at the funeral of one of the often-estranged, sociopathic Drumm brothers: William, Brian, and Luke. Which brother is in the coffin and how he got there isn’t revealed until much later. The long, strange trip before then emerges in sections narrated in turn by the trio, starting with the entitled eldest, William, a sexist film producer, and ending with baby Luke, a former pop star, much of whose bad behavior can be attributed to lifelong mental illness and addiction issues. In between there’s money-mad Brian, who, as Luke’s manager, stole Luke’s mansion and peddled his brother’s secrets to the press. The cruel way their supremely narcissistic mother, a fading Dublin dance band singer, treated her sons accounts for how they developed into such fatally flawed individuals. (Their innocuous father died in their teens.) Though the author’s skillful telling of this multigenerational tragedy has the riveting power of an imminent car crash, its despicable characters and unremitting darkness may put off many. Readers who don’t like it intensely grim are advised to start with one of Nugent’s earlier, not quite so dark books. Agent: Marianne Gunn O’Connor, Marianne Gunn O’Connor Literary. (Nov.)