Little Deaths

Little Deaths

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 bod...

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Title:Little Deaths
Author:Emma Flint
Rating:
Format Type:Kindle Edition
Number of Pages:304 pages

Little Deaths Reviews

  • Blair
    Nov 20, 2016

    I read this in one stretch, which I think was the best way for me to read it, not because I couldn't put it down, but because I could easily have lost interest if I hadn't committed to consuming it in a single gulp.

    A much-hyped debut for 2017,

    opens on a woman in prison, and then tells us how she got there. Ruth Malone is a cocktail waitress who lives with her young children, Frankie and Cindy. One day, Ruth goes to check on her kids and discovers they are not in their bedroom; soo

    I read this in one stretch, which I think was the best way for me to read it, not because I couldn't put it down, but because I could easily have lost interest if I hadn't committed to consuming it in a single gulp.

    A much-hyped debut for 2017,

    opens on a woman in prison, and then tells us how she got there. Ruth Malone is a cocktail waitress who lives with her young children, Frankie and Cindy. One day, Ruth goes to check on her kids and discovers they are not in their bedroom; soon afterwards, they are both found dead. We learn about Ruth from her own point of view, and also that of Pete, a journalist who becomes fixated on the case and infatuated with the woman at its centre. This is quite a slow story, an unfolding of events rather than a web of lies and surprise twists. But the same question hangs over every scene. Did Ruth murder her children? And if she didn't, what happened?

    What the plot reminded me of, more than anything, was the case of Amanda Knox – both the real story (fairly fresh in my mind because of the recent Netflix documentary) and the many fictionalised versions that came after it, chief among them

    an excellent novel by Jennifer duBois. There is the same sense that Ruth is suspicious because she doesn't behave as a woman in her position 'should'. That her attractiveness in itself makes her untrustworthy. She doesn't cry; she goes shopping for a new dress the day after her daughter's body is found. She's always perfectly composed, fashionably dressed, made up. In the weeks and months after the crime, she goes out drinking and sleeps around. She seems almost nonchalant, and that angers women and disgusts men.

    There is a strong sense of emotional detachment throughout the book, which means horrifying developments – the deaths of the children and the reveal of their killer – lack the impact they should have. Holding a character at arm's length from the reader is always a tricky balancing act (how's that for mixed metaphors), and here, Ruth's development suffers for it. We can't know

    much about her, because then we'd know whether she did it, but I think we're supposed to sympathise with her. And it isn't that I

    sympathise with her, exactly, but she always felt like a ghost. A blank space. A person you hear about second-hand from someone else. Not a full-colour, warts-and-all character leaping off the page, making you race through the book to find out whether she's vindicated in the end.

    For me, Pete's obsession was a really interesting angle: when we catch glimpses of him from other characters' perspectives, it becomes clear his fantasy of pursuing the truth is just that, and he is, in fact, basically stalking Ruth and becoming increasingly deluded. But Pete's story is mainly told from his own point of view, and there is little exploration of his motives.

    Meanwhile, the most successful element of

    is its recreation of a gossipy working-class neighbourhood in 1960s Queens. I was very surprised to discover that Flint is British; the novel and its characters feel quintessentially American.

    While this is a decent debut novel, I can't help but feel such an emotive premise should create the sort of story that provokes stronger reactions: a plot that moves you, characters to love or loathe. It's strong on atmosphere and period detail, but, like Ruth Malone, it has an emptiness at its heart.

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  • Liz Barnsley
    Oct 19, 2016

    For me, Little Deaths was a marvel of a novel. Poignant, thought provoking, beautifully written and engaging, also randomly rage inducing – I went through a spectrum of emotions reading Ruth’s story and at the end I was wrung out.

    Also, warning: Will cause google mania as you look up the case that Emma Flint took her inspiration from. That is also extraordinarily fascinating. I have today purchased her recommended book on the subject.

    Little Deaths starts with a tragedy – two missing children. I d

    For me, Little Deaths was a marvel of a novel. Poignant, thought provoking, beautifully written and engaging, also randomly rage inducing – I went through a spectrum of emotions reading Ruth’s story and at the end I was wrung out.

    Also, warning: Will cause google mania as you look up the case that Emma Flint took her inspiration from. That is also extraordinarily fascinating. I have today purchased her recommended book on the subject.

    Little Deaths starts with a tragedy – two missing children. I don’t think its really a spoiler to say there is not a happy ending for the tiny ones – what follows is a multi layered, insightful and scarily authentic dig around the court of public opinion, the influence of the press and the dogged determination of a police investigation headed up by an obsessed detective.

    Set in Queens, New York in the Summer of 1965 Emma Flint brings that time, that place, to beautiful, occasionally awful, always vivid life. You will see and hear it, find focus in the community surrounding Ruth as she faces every mothers worst nightmare. Ripples going outwards, infecting and affecting so many lives, this novel shows you all the nuances, those places inbetween, it was gripping, utterly gripping from the very first page. That did not go away.

    I think it should be noted that in this reviewers opinion if you are expecting a psychological thriller, a “whodunnit” then you won’t get that. Whilst there is resolution in a sense, whilst there is an element of “Did she Didn’t she” that is the peripheral of Little Deaths. Whilst still intriguing on that level the heart of it is in the characters, their influences, a snapshot of a time, a place, a judgement that one would hope we as a society would have left behind us now. We have not though as the cases glaring at us from todays headlines prove all the time.

    I’m back to Little Deaths is a marvel of a novel. Literary crime with a dash of eloquence and a story rooted in the truths we don’t like to think about.

    Highly Recommended

  • Richard
    Feb 20, 2017

    A difficult read in terms of the subject matter. The murder of two young children isn't always going to be an uplifting read. However, when the matter is treated with care and an original eye a fictional account can helps us see our humanity and the frailties of life.

    Ruth Malone is struggling in her relationship with the children's father so lives as a single mother, working long hours as a cocktail waitress to meet the needs of the household. Ruth is a woman first and therefore in her presentat

    A difficult read in terms of the subject matter. The murder of two young children isn't always going to be an uplifting read. However, when the matter is treated with care and an original eye a fictional account can helps us see our humanity and the frailties of life.

    Ruth Malone is struggling in her relationship with the children's father so lives as a single mother, working long hours as a cocktail waitress to meet the needs of the household. Ruth is a woman first and therefore in her presentation she is always immaculate. Others will judge her, feeling she puts her needs before those of her kids, leaving her home a mess while looking her best and ready to entertain men.

    Seen as promiscuous due to the 1960's setting in a working neighbourhood in New York.

    The loss of her children as they go missing on her watch, and the ultimate tragedy of them being found dead breaks her and all see can hold on to is her appearance, something others fail to see for what it is as she seeks to overcome her grief and sense of guilt.

    Ruth has several shady relationships in this story; a fine female friend and a strong mother but mostly a group of men attracted to her beauty but maintain their relationships for carnal pleasure. Nothing satisfies Ruth she just needs to be treated as special and loved; this appears to be how she viewed her darling children.

    In addition, the story is marked by a young journalist who over steps his professional boundaries as he is drawn to this femme fatale who he desires to save and be found innocent of murder. An old detective Devlin is convinced of her guilt and strives to build a case, waiting for Ruth to trip herself up or for her to confess and reveal who helped her in this horrendous crime and nature.

    A compelling story that seeps into your reasoning and you never feel quite ready to give up on Ruth but despair that she must know more of what happened.

    When she is finally arrested, and brought before a jury, no woman will sit in judgement as all are convinced of her guilty. As the evidence seems to be contrived to be against her and witnesses seem prepared to lie you wonder how far the journalist will go to save her. Did he uncover the truth among all his earlier interviews? Can his unnatural involvement and knowledge of the case find the salvation Ruth needs to avoid a guilty verdict?

    Tense at times, beautifully constructed and written. You feel the despair of seeking the truth by the journalist. You become frustrated by Ruth's inability to help herself or speak the truth. You are not prepared for the shocks and the lengths others will go to in this case and trial.

    Good courtroom drama, a wonderful sense of time and place. The writing has a rhythm that carries you along and belies the fact that this is a debut novel.

  • Amy
    Jan 16, 2017

    All of my reviews can be found on

    This book caught my eye immediately for several reasons. First, the cover is so striking in its simplicity, then the blurb is intriguing, I love that it takes place in the sixties, it’s one of my favorite eras. After I received my copy I discovered that the author was inspired by a real case and that was just the icing on the cake for me. I haven’t read a true crime novel for quite some time, but the idea of reading a book with truthful elemen

    All of my reviews can be found on

    This book caught my eye immediately for several reasons. First, the cover is so striking in its simplicity, then the blurb is intriguing, I love that it takes place in the sixties, it’s one of my favorite eras. After I received my copy I discovered that the author was inspired by a real case and that was just the icing on the cake for me. I haven’t read a true crime novel for quite some time, but the idea of reading a book with truthful elements was so interesting to me.

    Ruth Malone is living her worst nightmare, both of her young children went missing and then were discovered days later murdered. Unfortunately for her, she’s the easy target for the police and her community as she’s different from her neighbors. She’s a party girl, she drinks more than is considered to be acceptable, is promiscuous and is estranged from her husband, Frank. She dresses provocatively and takes pride in her appearance and the worst part is that she doesn’t behave the way people assume a grieving mother would. Devlin is the cop working the case and he presumes she is guilty on the very night Frankie and Cindy go missing. Everything about Ruth and the person she is was frowned upon in the sixties and it was interesting to think that not much has changed as far as how many women are still judged based on the way they look today.

    Pete Woinecke is a rookie reporter who manages to nab this story and though he has very little direct interaction with Ruth he falls under her spell and develops an obsession with her. He believes she is guilty in the beginning but as he continues to search for answers, he wavers and wonders if she may be innocent after all. I had a similar experience as one minute I would be sure she was innocent, then the next things would flip as she said or did something that made me shake my head.

    The ending of this one was dramatic and unexpected and you do find out what really happened to the Malone children, but there is no real sense of justice being served. This made it all the more honest and true to life as in reality, things are often left messy and unfinished.

    This isn’t your traditional mystery/thriller type novel, it’s deeper than that, it has the vibe of literary fiction and I was reminded of Tana French minus the density of her work. Every word that Flint wrote serves a purpose and the result is a powerful and profound read, she’s a genuinely talented writer and storyteller.

  • Susan
    Jan 04, 2017

    It is 1965 and a sweltering summer in Queens, New York. Ruth Malone is a young mother to five year old Frankie and four year old Cindy. Recently separated from her husband, also called Frankie, Ruth raises eyebrows in her neighbourhood. Unlike the other mothers, who stand around the stoops gossiping in drab housedresses, Ruth is always well put together. The clack of her heels is a familiar sound. She laughs too loudly, drinks too much and is a little too fond of male company.

    Ruth is tired of h

    It is 1965 and a sweltering summer in Queens, New York. Ruth Malone is a young mother to five year old Frankie and four year old Cindy. Recently separated from her husband, also called Frankie, Ruth raises eyebrows in her neighbourhood. Unlike the other mothers, who stand around the stoops gossiping in drab housedresses, Ruth is always well put together. The clack of her heels is a familiar sound. She laughs too loudly, drinks too much and is a little too fond of male company.

    Ruth is tired of her life and her marriage. She wants a better job than her current one, waitressing. The heat irritates her and so, sometimes, do her children – especially Frankie, who looks up to his father and tends to push against the boundaries. Still, Ruth knows that Frankie wants custody of Frankie and Cindy, and so she attempts to clean her apartment – slinging empty bottles in the trash . At night, she often leaves the children alone; to walk the dog or to see men. However, life goes along as usual until, one morning, Ruth awakes to find the children gone…

    Based on a true story, this is an excellent literary crime novel. Author Emma Flint paints a portrait of that time, and place, perfectly. You can feel the heat, the limitations that Ruth feels and, most of all, the judgement. For when the children go missing, the police look askance at the empty liquor bottles and the letters from men and draw the conclusion that Ruth is implicated in her children’s disappearance. As time goes on, all Ruth knows is to pull herself together, to paint her face and present a face to the world – even if she is crumbling inside. However, her lack of obvious emotion and grief, is simply seen as more evidence of her guilt.

    This story is also told from the point of view of Pete Wonicke, a young journalist who needs a break, a story. When he gets the chance to take the Malone case, he has to decide whether to write a story that sells, or write what he believes to be the truth. I really thought this was a wonderfully written novel and I think it says a lot about what the public expect to see and how judgemental they can be when expectations are not met. Although set in the mid-Sixties this is a very relevant book, which you can easily relate to more modern cases and the easy, judgemental attitudes of social media. At the end of this novel, Emma Flint outlines her next novel – I, for one, will be keen to read it.

  • Peter Boyle
    Jan 15, 2017

    This story felt

    familiar to me. Maybe it's because it is the tenth work of fiction inspired by the infamous

    case. Or maybe it's the fact that every character was a cliché, every twist seemed telegraphed. I just felt like I'd read it all before.

    Ruth Malone is a struggling cocktail waitress in 1960s Queens, recently estranged from her husband Frank. One sweltering July night, her two children go missing from their beds. And when their battered bodies are found a few days later,

    This story felt

    familiar to me. Maybe it's because it is the tenth work of fiction inspired by the infamous

    case. Or maybe it's the fact that every character was a cliché, every twist seemed telegraphed. I just felt like I'd read it all before.

    Ruth Malone is a struggling cocktail waitress in 1960s Queens, recently estranged from her husband Frank. One sweltering July night, her two children go missing from their beds. And when their battered bodies are found a few days later, the ensuing murder investigation becomes the hot topic on every New Yorker's lips. The public quickly make up their minds about the identity of the guilty party - with her late-night carousing and long string of lovers, Mrs Malone is not society's idea of a perfect mother. But one young journalist sees something special in Ruth, and will not rest until he proves her innocence.

    Every stock aspect of the noir novel is present in Little Deaths: the flame-haired femme fatale, the hard-nosed detective, the rookie reporter chasing his first major scoop. The plot features precious few surprises until the ending, which seemed quite improbable to me. Flint does deserve praise for capturing the social disapproval and media frenzy surrounding a woman who is tried for her lifestyle as much as her children's deaths. But overall this book feels like a stale entry in the literary crime genre, and is best avoided.

  • Diane S ☔
    Jan 30, 2017

    3.5 Ruth Malone wakes up one morning and finds her two young children gone, their bedroom door hooked from the outside. Did this woman, separated from her husband, get rid of her children? The detective on the case is positive she is guilty. After all there were all those liquor bottles found in her department, most of her neighbors believe she is guilty, her lack of tears is enough proof.

    A young woman judged guilty because of her lifestyle, her demeanor, her attention to her own grooming, her v

    3.5 Ruth Malone wakes up one morning and finds her two young children gone, their bedroom door hooked from the outside. Did this woman, separated from her husband, get rid of her children? The detective on the case is positive she is guilty. After all there were all those liquor bottles found in her department, most of her neighbors believe she is guilty, her lack of tears is enough proof.

    A young woman judged guilty because of her lifestyle, her demeanor, her attention to her own grooming, her visits to bars and the men she brought home. Judged guilty by all, except for a few. We read about this happening all the time, people judged guilty only based on appearances, police determined to get a guilty verdict at all costs. I think that is why this book worked so, well for me, I found it believable, real. Emotionally raw, intense. Well written, for the most part well plotted. A few things bothered me, but for the most part well done.

    ARC from publisher.

  • Wendy Darling
    Jan 27, 2017

    The first third of this book was so engrossing. A woman is accused of murdering her two children--but Ruth is not your typical mother, and she will not garner the usual sympathy, because she's always perfectly made up and she drinks in excess and she takes a lot of lovers and she's--

    --a cocktail waitress. I was interested in this portrait of a woman who is judged so harshly by her outward appearance, particularly during the 40s; for some women, careful clothes and makeup are armor

    The first third of this book was so engrossing. A woman is accused of murdering her two children--but Ruth is not your typical mother, and she will not garner the usual sympathy, because she's always perfectly made up and she drinks in excess and she takes a lot of lovers and she's--

    --a cocktail waitress. I was interested in this portrait of a woman who is judged so harshly by her outward appearance, particularly during the 40s; for some women, careful clothes and makeup are armor used to mask what's going on inside, even during the most stressful times.

    But that is pretty much the only thought-provoking idea to come out of this. I have no idea what happened, except that the last two thirds of this character study got derailed by an ineffectual, not-very-bright, off-putting journalist and a

    that is littered with uninteresting people with half-hearted motivations and very little conviction. (Not to mention a couple of pretty spectacular info-dump interviews shoe-horned in late in the game.) There are a few brief moments when you catch a glimpse of what this book could have been through Ruth's private grief, but they come early on and are quickly forgotten. The kids' brutal (though non-explicit) murders barely register, because they're merely props like everything else.

    In the end, what's clearly meant to be an examination of slut-shaming and a challenge of feminine ideals still misses the mark; it doesn't really go anywhere, and both the characters and the reader leave the book unchanged. A huge miss as a suspense novel and

  • Ann Marie
    Feb 04, 2017

    You read this and all of my reviews at

    I was so excited to begin this this book. I knew that it was based on a true story story but it was one I was unfamiliar with. I made the conscious decision not to do any research on the case prior to reading this fictionalized version.

    As you can probably tell from my rating, I had several problems with the book. The first is that it was really quite boring. It just dragged on until the very last chapters. There were several points at which

    You read this and all of my reviews at

    I was so excited to begin this this book. I knew that it was based on a true story story but it was one I was unfamiliar with. I made the conscious decision not to do any research on the case prior to reading this fictionalized version.

    As you can probably tell from my rating, I had several problems with the book. The first is that it was really quite boring. It just dragged on until the very last chapters. There were several points at which I almost gave up but I kept on in the hopes that things would pick up. I was truly surprised when it did not. This is, after all, a book about the murder of two children. What I'm sure made for a very compelling news story simply didn't translate well into a novel for me.

    The second problem I had was related to the way the mother of the children, Ruth Malone, was described in the book. It is often mentioned that she teased her hair, wore too much make-up (her mouth was referred to as "sticky" with lipstick), dressed provocatively, wore cheap perfume, smoked, drank, etc. The picture I conjured in my head was one of a cheap-looking, garishly made-up woman. And that would have been fine except for the way men seemed to react to her. There was no man who didn't immediately fall under her spell. They were falling all over themselves to get to her. Especially Pete Wonicke, the rookie newspaper reporter assigned to her case. After a while I was just like c'mon, really?? As it turns out,

    , the woman who was the actual murder suspect in the murder of her two children, was actually quite beautiful. I'm not sure why the author chose to exaggerate these characteristics to the extend she did. Ultimately, it made Ruth's character less believable to me.

    Both the Alice Crimmins and Ruth Malone were judged to be guilty in the court of public opinion and this was one part of the book that I thought worked well and seemed very realistic. It brought to mind the cases of Susan Smith and Casey Anthony, both of which I followed closely at the time of their trials.

    Though this book was a disappointment to me, I would not dismiss Emma Flint as an author. In fairness, I like

    she wrote. I just didn't happen to like

    she wrote in this book.

    2.5 stars

    Thanks to Hachette Books for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  • Tripfiction
    Jan 28, 2017

    Slow-burning thriller set in QUEENS, New York

    Lists of up-coming books to watch our for in 2017 have been buzzing about Little Deaths, so I was keen to see if the book lives up to the hype. It does, it is a fascinating debut.

    The setting for this novel is Queens, New York in the mid 1960s. It is July, hot and sweltering, the locals are edgy. The murder of two young children, Frankie Junior and Cindy, stirs the community into a frenzy.

    Ruth – mother to the two murdered children – has separated from

    Slow-burning thriller set in QUEENS, New York

    Lists of up-coming books to watch our for in 2017 have been buzzing about Little Deaths, so I was keen to see if the book lives up to the hype. It does, it is a fascinating debut.

    The setting for this novel is Queens, New York in the mid 1960s. It is July, hot and sweltering, the locals are edgy. The murder of two young children, Frankie Junior and Cindy, stirs the community into a frenzy.

    Ruth – mother to the two murdered children – has separated from her husband, Frank, and has been struggling to make ends meet. The two parents are in the middle of a custody battle, tempers are fraught. She also has a desperate need to be loved and nurtured, and therefore actively seeks the attentions of men to counter the deep loneliness and disconnectedness that blights her life. She is not purely a social drinker, but someone who will dribble vodka into her morning coffee to stave off the profound emptiness.

    As investigations into the murder of her two young children progress, rookie reporter Pete Wonicke is drawn to the story like a moth to a light, he is enthralled by the woman who increasingly becomes the main suspect. So much so that he puts his job on the line….

    In some ways this is a very prescient story for today – a woman who is seen to have loose morals is vilified by those around her, mainly by the men but sadly also by some of the women. No-one really bothers to look at the bigger picture of her life, her upbringing, and social circumstance. She is deemed “.. the very picture of a scandalous woman“. As the case against her builds, Pete becomes more and more convinced of her innocence. Whilst all the focus is on her – her lifestyle, her alcohol consumption, her natty and revealing dress style, is the real perpetrator of these crimes being overlooked? She is “judged and pronounced guilty in the beauty parlours, the backyards, and the kitchens of Queens“.

    Ruth is a woman who hides her inner identity, her feelings are rarely on show for public consumption. She tries to protect herself whilst she is being pitilessly demonised by the police, and because of her manner, she garners little support. The guilt she feels – for all kinds of things – eats away at her. The author reinforces Ruth’s loathing of her own body: she finds it malodorous and despicable (probably too many descriptions of rank armpits to be honest). She keeps herself to herself and no-one really bothers to see the person underneath. She is a shameless woman who deserves all that is coming to her, it seems. Would her situation be so very different in today’s world? Now, that is a really frightening thought….

    I wasn’t all together sure about the ending, but in a way it is the narrative, the slow-burn, the build-up, the quality of the dialogue and writing that makes this an excellent debut. A little too much emphasis on Ruth’s manner, clothes and make-up, but that is a minor quibble. The story is inspired by the case of Alice Crimmins, whose two children went missing from their Queens apartment in 1965.

    The location, oppressive and intense in the heat of July, serves as an excellent backdrop to the unfolding story. Kissena Park in Queens features, but it is the anonymous streets, the buildings and cafes that make the time and place feel very colourful and real.