Real Easy by Marie Rutkoski
Published: January 18th 2022 by Tinder Press
Rating: ★★★★ (4)
Genre: Adult // Psychological Thriller, Mystery, Crime
Quick Thoughts: A gritty crime-thriller that is a mix of fascinating and confounding, full of character-driven intensity that never diminishes.
About The Book:
A compulsive, tenacious, and unexpectedly hopeful thriller set in a midwestern strip club, told by New York Times bestselling author Marie Rutkoski in the spirit of Gillian Flynn and Tana French
It’s 1999, and Samantha has danced for years at the Lovely Lady strip club. She’s not used to taking anyone under her wing―after all, between her disapproving boyfriend and his daughter, who may as well be her own child, she has enough to worry about. But when Samantha overrides her better judgment to drive a new dancer home, they are run off the road. The police arrive at the scene of the accident―but find only one body.
Georgia, another dancer, is drawn into the investigation as she tries to assist Holly, a Harvard-educated detective with a complicated story of her own. As the point of view shifts from dancers and detectives to club patrons and children, the women round up a list of suspects, all the while grappling with their understandings of loss and love.
Drawing on her personal experiences as well as interviews with police, Rutkoski immerses us in a subculture that is all too often reduced to cliché. Gripping, deeply feminist, and character-driven, Real Easy spellbinds us and gets to the heart of this timeless question: How do women live out their lives knowing that men can hurt them?
A lot of authors that start in the YA game tend to stray into Adult fiction sooner or later, and one that I was absolutely looking forward to was Marie. The Winner’s Curse was one of my favourite reads as a teen so I knew that I had to pick this up! Also, we all know thrillers are my absolute favourite this time of year, so it was perfect timing to dive in since it’s been on my shelf for months.
It’s the year 1999 (I would have been three!) and we’re at the Lovely Lady strip club. I’m not sure I’ve read a book that revolves around a strip club before, let alone been in one, but somehow through Marie’s alluring writing, I was right there. Samantha, also known as Ruby, one of the best dancers, has been working at the club for years. She’s friendly with a lot of the girls, but they also have a lot of ambiguity with their personal lives to keep themselves safe that way. So Samantha wouldn’t normally take another girl under her wing, let alone drive her home, but she does just that for a new dancer that is a bit worse for wear. The last thing she expects is for their car to be run off the road. But the police only find their car overturned, one body and a missing girl.
As police investigate the kidnapping and murder, Samantha’s world turns upside down. Her boyfriend and his daughter, the one she so desperately wishes were her own, are thrown into the chaos. Alongside the dancers, who start to feel as though they all have targets on their backs out of fear there’s a serial killer on the loose. We bounce between many POV shifts, but the one that centres the entire investigation is Georgia, aka Gigi, a dancer who becomes a CI at the club for smart Detective Holly. She wants nothing more than for the person responsible to be brought to justice, but when the suspect list changes like a turntable, how do any of the women trust—let alone move on—when danger is so unsuspecting?
Overall, Real Easy was unlike any book I’ve ever read in a multitude of brilliant ways. Whilst I did struggle to care about some of the POVs that were explored, I really did have a soft spot for Georgia and Samantha. Not only was the plot woven with feminism and a stark message of how dangerous life is for women that are just living their lives, but heavy with so much symbolism that made it nothing short of magnificent. If you’re looking for a gritty crime-thriller that is a mix of fascinating and confounding, full of character-driven intensity that never diminishes, this is your new favourite read. Four brilliant stars!
Marie Rutkoski is the New York Times bestselling author of several books for children and young adults, including THE HOLLOW HEART (September 14, 2021). Her debut for adults, REAL EASY (January 18, 2022), is a psychological thriller. Born in Illinois, Marie holds degrees from the University of Iowa and Harvard University. She is currently a professor at Brooklyn College and lives in Brooklyn with her family. (photo credit: Beowulf Sheehan)