Little Pretty Things

Written by Lori Rader-Day

AMATEUR SLEUTH. What happens to the girl who always comes in second? Juliet “Jules” Townsend was a brilliant high school track star who broke state records. Unfortunately that was not good enough to win. Her best friend Madeleine “Maddy” Bell beat her in every race. The silver cups in the lobby of the high school they both attended all bear Maddy’s name. The two friends haven’t seen each other for ten years until Maddy, wearing a diamond the size of a lemon, walks into Mid-Night, the motel where Jules alternates between working the front desk and cleaning rooms. To call the motel a fleabag is to give it too much credit. When Maddy wants to catch up, Jules has a quick drink then harshly brushes her off. She feels humiliated about how grim and grimy her life must look to the obviously successful Maddy. “For a moment,” Juliet thinks, “my life split in two and I was the me I could have been and also the me I’d become.”

After a restless night plagued with memories, Jules goes to work, determined to make amends for her cruelty. But there won’t be any second chances. She finds Maddy hanging from the motel’s wrought iron balcony, dead. The police, one of whom is another former classmate, think Jules might have had something to do with the death. Hoping to make some sense of what has happened Jules joins forces with Maddy’s high school boyfriend Beck.

“I hadn’t liked that boy, and I was pretty sure I didn’t like the man who turned into either.
For a long moment I watched him walk away. Why had I trusted him?
But I knew why.
Because Maddy had. And she’d trusted me too. I held the photo of us to my chest and wished again that I’d been better to her on that last night. Maybe everything would have turned out differently.
“Hey, I called to Beck’s back. “Give me a ride home and we’ll figure out what to do next.”

Though no stranger to self pity and its cousin inertia, Jules is too self aware to wallow. She sees herself fairly clearly, and while she is dangerously blind to other people’s flaws she doesn’t kid herself about her own as she sruggles toward the revelation that will change her view of everything she thinks she knows.

I find Rader-Day’s quirky, sardonic style and slightly dark heroine/s very engaging and I’m not the only one. Her first novel, The Black Hour, won the Anthony and the Silver Falchion awards for best first novel. Little Pretty Things won the Mary Higgins Clark Award given by Mystery Writers of America. It’s a gratifying beginning for a new writer. Can’t wait for number three.

Lori Rader-Day
Little Pretty Things
Paperback
Seventh Street Books
July 7, 2015

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