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This was a really great listen that kept me gripped all the way to the end! The contrast between Ruth being heartbroken for her children's deaths set against the prejudice and misogynist opinions of the police force is done really well and makes you realise the struggle women had (and often still do) back in the 60's for being independent, wearing certain outfits or having relationships with men out of wedlock.
We are told right at the beginning that Ruth went to prison for deaths of her children and therefore the books focus is about how the police came to convict her. I think the real questions this book makes you ask if what was Ruth really on trial for in the end? The murder of her children or her behaviour as a woman deemed inappropriate by a world run by men.
It was such a fascinating listen and the dual narration of the book between Ruth and the Journalist covering the story worked perfectly. I would highly recommend!
9 of 9 people found this review helpful
This debut novel is based on the true case of Alice Crimmins in 1960s New York who was found guilty of murdering her two young children even though there was no conclusive proof that she had killed them. Books have been written about the case, but what Emma Flint does with it is remarkable, not least in creating such a thoroughly American novel that it is hard to believe that she is British.
Alice Crimmins becomes Ruth Malone in Flint's novel. She's an 'attractive red-haired cocktail waitress' with all the sleazy connotations that entails, and is in the middle of a very bitter custody battle with her husband Frank over their two young children Frankie and Cindy. We know from the opening scene that Ruth ends up in prison, so we know she'll be found guilty. The interest then is in the how and why this verdict was returned.
Flint unpeels Ruth's life struggling to support the two little children she loves, failing to look after them in a conventional way and indulging in a great deal of noisy sex with a lot of men, much disapproved of by the neighbourhood in the mid-1960s district of New York. Her dissolute way of life (the empty bottles in the trash can; the children waking at night to see strange men, or just an empty apartment) was enough to seal her fate but more 'conclusive' evidence was her reaction when her children went missing from the upstairs apartment and were later found murdered. Always caked in immaculate make-up with hair and nails just-so, Ruth went shopping for a new dress the very next day and though she was completely destroyed inside, she refused to cry in public. Intrusive neighbours, prejudiced investigators and the Press which buzzed 'like flies around rotten meat' judged her: she'd obviously killed those children who'd got in the way of one of her relationships with a man not her husband.
Sgt. Devlin is determined to nail 'the bitch', but club reporter Peter Wonicke thinks she's innocent, falls in love with the idea of her, and becomes obsessed with proving her innocence. What makes the whole book so good is the insight and sympathy with which Flint creates Ruth's grief-stricken life after the children disappear contrasted with the harsh, duplicitous case built up against her by a society quick to condemn a woman whose skirts are too short and who openly enjoys sex and dancing with random men. Like Alice Crimmins, Ruth is eventually released and Flint leaves us with a totally convincing conclusion in which she learns what really happened and accepts her role in the tragedy - this last brief final section is a brilliant ending both satisfying and thoughtful.
The thoroughly American dual narration is absolutely in tune with the changing moods and characters capturing both the harshness and the delicacy of the language.
31 of 35 people found this review helpful