One hot summer in New York, 1965, a sexy, troubled cocktail waitress is suspected of murdering her children.
Flint’s debut novel begins in a prison cell, where Ruth Malone struggles to awaken from a dream of her old apartment building in Queens—putting on her makeup in the bathroom, smoking her first cigarette of the day, “the blast of Gina’s radio overhead, Tony Bonelli’s heavy tread on the stairs….Nina Lombardo yelling at her kids next door.” This is where it happened, where one morning in July she unlatched her children’s bedroom door to find them gone. Cindy and Frankie, ages 4 and 5, not in bed with a storybook, not snuggled together under their blue blanket, but disappeared. Within days their bodies are found in a dump and a nearby woods, strangled, decomposed. Having heard the story from Ruth’s point of view, the reader is assured of her innocence, though a self-righteous belief in her guilt is shared by many of her neighbors, the media, and, most importantly, the lead detective on the case, who is absolutely determined to “crack that whore.” She is believed to be a bad mother, a woman who goes to too many bars, sees too many men, drinks too much booze, a woman who has recently dumped her husband even though he was ready to forgive her for cheating on him. Her only significant ally is a young newspaperman who at first sees the case as the key to launching his career but becomes so obsessed that he quits the paper to try to prove Ruth’s innocence. Since we know where it begins, it seems we know how it must turn out—but there are a few surprises left.
Sharply rendered literary noir, compelling enough to forgive a slightly left-field resolution.