Originally published in Bookpage.
We usually celebrate our college alma maters with a sense of pride, while doing our best to forget high school altogether. But in Lori Rader-Day’s stunning second novel LITTLE PRETTY THINGS, a murder at a creepy roadside motel forces an unlikely heroine to revisit her painful high school years.
Somewhere in the cornfields between Chicago and Indianapolis, Juliet Townsend is trapped in a meaningless job as a maid at the seedy Mid-Night Inn in the small town of Midway, Indiana, “named for the fact that it wasn’t one place or another.” In high school, Juliet lived in the shadow of her best friend and track team rival, the beautiful and mysterious Madeleine Bell. Ten years later, Juliet’s still in town, living with her mother and scrubbing toilets after Madeleine left her behind for a glamorous life in Chicago.
Or so Juliet thinks, until the night Madeleine checks into the Mid-Night Inn. She’s still stunning, and sporting a giant diamond ring that Juliet—a kleptomaniac with a penchant for small, shiny objects—would love to get her hands on. But Madeleine isn’t there to gloat: She’s running from something and desperate to talk to Juliet. Overcome with jealousy, Juliet blows her off, and the next morning finds Madeleine’s corpse hanging from the motel balcony. When local police name her the most likely suspect, Juliet embarks on a mission to find the real killer by excavating her and Madeleine’s past as track stars at Midway High, when Madeleine mysteriously pulled out of a pivotal race and cost Juliet a scholarship.
Once again, Chicago author Rader-Day (The Black Hour) delivers a breathless psychological thriller with a killer first line, an irresistible mystery and lean chapters soaked with suspense. Comparisons to Tana French (A Secret Place) and Paula Hawkins (The Girl on the Train) have become all too common in the mystery genre, but with two consistently great novels now under her belt, Rader-Day has proved their equal in crafting taut, literary mysteries with fascinating heroines.
NOTE: See also my interview with Lori over at Gapers Block.
FICTION: MYSTERY, THRILLER
Little Pretty Things by Lori Rader-Day (Seventh Street Books)