t'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 body is found. Immediately, all fingers point to Ruth.
As police investigate the murders, the detritus of Ruth's life is exposed. Seen through the eyes of the cops, the empty bourbon bottles and provocative clothing which litter her apartment, the piles of letters from countless men and Ruth's little black book of phone numbers, make her a drunk, a loose woman—and therefore a bad mother. The lead detective, a strict Catholic who believes women belong in the home, leaps to the obvious conclusion: facing divorce and a custody battle, Malone took her children's lives.
Pete Wonicke is a rookie tabloid reporter who finagles an assignment to cover the murders. Determined to make his name in the paper, he begins digging into the case. Pete's interest in the story develops into an obsession with Ruth, and he comes to believe there's something more to the woman whom prosecutors, the press, and the public have painted as a promiscuous femme fatale. Did Ruth Malone violently kill her own children, is she a victim of circumstance—or is there something more sinister at play?
This book tells the story about Ruth Malone, a separated mom with two children who one day go missing. Soon after, both children are found dead and the police believe that Ruth is the culprit. The only evidence against her being her job (as a cocktail waitress), manner of dress, that she likes to drink and sleeps with more than one man.
Then there is Pete Wonicke, a newly minted tabloid reporter with the Herald who is assigned to cover the story but ends up obsessed with Ruth. You know that the aloof persona that Ruth presents to the world is supposed to be covering up a terrified young mother but the writing does not sufficiently reflect that. In the end, although Ruth has suffered tremendously from the loss of her children and freedom, there is no empathy for her character.
This book was more of a series of ‘blink and you missed it moments’. For example, the beginning starts out with Ruth telling her story from jail so if you caught that then you know that someone she is convicted. I didn’t and had to re-read the beginning. Another part was when Pete professes his love for her, my first reaction was “What?!” Yes, he was unhealthily obsessed but where in the book was this developing love explained? A love that was all one sided as Ruth and him only had about two short conversations throughout the whole book.
Also, although the story did repeatedly wonder about the inconsistency between what Ruth fed the children and what the medical examiner stated their last meal was, it wasn’t until the big reveal that you realized why it mattered. But at the point, it really did not matter. I don’t know what book my favorite author read that inspired such a great blurb on the book cover.
*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Roberta