Little Pretty Things
Seventh Street Books, July 2015
You probably know a place like the Mid-Night Inn. It’s got twenty rooms, only twelve of them are habitable. Seedy looking Billy, the manager, lives on the premises. There’s a bar, no pool, and no continental breakfast. The customers are two types—the bargains and the desperates. Juliet Townsend makes the beds at the motel, after the bargain seeking travelers have scurried away. After high school, she went away to college for one semester, eager to escape her dead end life in Midway, Indiana. She had to come home to take care of her mother, and she remained cleaning toilets years later, not able to muster the will to break out of her rut.
When Juliet saw gorgeous Madeleine Bell at the front desk, wanting a room for the night, she thought she was hallucinating. Maddy had been the golden girl of high school, the track star, and Juliet’s good friend. Was Maddy in town for their tenth reunion? Maddy says she’s in town for business, but wanted to see Juliet. Odd, thinks, Juliet, since we haven’t spoken since that last track meet our senior year. They wander over to the bar, and Maddy makes vague small talk for a while. The next morning Maddy is found hanging from the motel’s balcony railing.
Did Maddy take her own life or was she murdered? Juliet can only remember all the track meets in school, where she was always second to Maddy’s first. If it hadn’t been for Maddy, Juliet might have won a track scholarship and left Midway for good. The author skillfully weaves the memories of the high school days into the present day mystery. It’s a story with multi-layered characters, tattered around the edges atmosphere, and revelations about relationships and reality. One of the best mysteries I’ve read this year.
Reviewed by Susan Belsky, September 2015.