LITTLE PRETTY THINGS by Lori Rader-Day
Seventh Street Books
Have your hands ever itched—just a little—to take something that wasn’t yours, but you couldn’t help but want anyway? Juliet Townsend knows that feeling all too well—although the little pretty things she takes home from her dead-end job at a dive motel are just the random bits of flotsam left behind by guests. Well, mostly.
Juliet has to admit that her life hasn’t turned out at all like she had planned. After her father’s death she found herself moving home to take care of her mother…and has never managed to leave. Barely scraping by financially, Juliet is working the front desk one night when her high school rival sweeps in. Madeline Bell—the track champion that Juliet was always coming in two steps behind. Juliet can’t figure what Maddy is doing in this run down dump—the giant rock on Maddy’s finger is enough to put out an eye, and Maddy is still as beautiful as ever—but Maddy insists on trying to catch up. The evening doesn’t go as planned, and the next morning Juliet learns that she’ll never really be able to put things right between them, because Maddy is dead.
Soon Juliet is the prime suspect in her old rival’s murder, and Juliet must dig into Maddy’s past—and her own—to clear her name…and her memories.
LITTLE PRETTY THINGS is a stellar follow-up to Rader-Day’s impressive debut THE BLACK HOUR—she is an extraordinary storyteller, with a knack for breathing life into deeply flawed yet empathetic characters. I loved Rader-Day’s description of Juliet’s kleptomania—the itching palms and the almost overwhelming desire to take things. Yet Juliet’s story and her circumstances proved to be incredibly thought-provoking—how easy is it to fall into a rut and find yourself lacking the momentum to crawl out? And what would you do to make that rut the slightest bit more comfortable to live in?
Besides a compelling mystery, LITTLE PRETTY THINGS is an excellent investigation into regret, and how our memories are often warped and twisted into what we want them to be, not necessarily an accurate representation of how things truly were. Juliet’s memories of always coming in second place to Maddy were colored by the passing years, overshadowing years of friendship. The investigation forced her to take a hard look at her life and her past—as well as the lens through which she views things.
I loved watching all the pieces click into place with this story, which delivered some genuine surprises at the end. Rader-Day sure knows how to knock it out of the park.
Erica Ruth Neubauer