Rader-Day’s Little Pretty Things sprints head-on into the disappointing existence of former high school (almost) track star, Juliet. Twenty-eight-year-old college drop-out and kleptomaniac, surviving paycheck to paycheck on a dead-end job at a hellhole motel in the stagnant US Midwest, Juliet has always been almost, nearly worth something… but not quite. She’s a lifetime second-placer, a scavenger of other people’s prettier lives.
‘I’d meant to take my thirty-minute break to get out of Maddy’s ratified, spice-cookie air, to brace myself for the knowledge that I’d be the one to clean her fair locks out of the shower drain in room two-oh-two the next morning. “Please?” Maddy said. “We could catch up.” Catching up with Maddy was the one thing I’d never been able to do.’
When former high school BFFs Juliet and Maddy meet at the one-star Mid-Night motel ten years after graduation, they exchange heated half-truths and bitter unspoken accusations over a beer. The next morning Maddy is found dead. Juliet was the last one to see her alive and immediately becomes suspect of murder. Worse still, the investigation will be carried out by a former classmate, involve her current co-workers and friends, and interrupt just about everything else in her two-bit town. I may be in danger of one too many track puns, but this story moves fast. A four-minute mile of a whodunit. Juliet, though not always likeable, is thoroughly relatable. Her jealousy, regret, and fears are real, numb, resigned, and strangely un-dramatic.
What I appreciate most with Juliet’s story, and Rader-Day’s writing style, is the looming sense of inevitability. Things seem to always be happening, because they simply cannot happen any other way. This puzzle only has one pattern. Much like Juliet’s view of her own life, running in place. Much, in fact, like the flat inevitability of the Midwest itself, which constricts its inhabitants with sheer endless, unvarying magnitude.
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