Best Mystery, Thriller & Suspense
A compulsive, tenacious, and unexpectedly hopeful thriller set in a Midwestern strip club, told by New York Times best-selling 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 police officers and detectives to club patrons and children, the women round up a list of suspects, all the while grappling with their own 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 Macmillan Audio production from Henry Holt and Company.
(Includes a bonus conversation between the author and narrator.)
Wow, when I step outside my normal genres, I go WAY out. This audiobook on NetGalley caught my attention—and once I started listening—kept listening.
It’s 1999 and the reader is introduced to Samantha, a veteran dancer at the Lovely Lady strip club. She’s been there long enough to have the best stage, the following, and the income that comes with experience and being very good at what she does. She lives with her boyfriend and his daughter but she appears to be closer to the daughter than the disapproving and abusive boyfriend.
A new dancer is hired, and as dancers come and go, she is extremely naïve, inexperienced and not the brightest. Samantha provides some mentoring and volunteers to drive her home but neither reach home that night. That’s unfortunate as the reader is just beginning to develop empathy and engagement with her.
The reader is gradually introduced to the entertainers, the employees, and the boss, with a few backgrounds providing the explanation for the how and why they became sex workers. The owner has enforced a number of rules, but the patrons are there to drink and satisfy some carnal urges providing various *ugh* moments. Any violence happens off page and left to the reader’s imagination.
Upon the discovery of the body of the newbie, police become involved in the investigation and the other side of society now views the strip club, the dancers, and the patrons with a jaundiced, somewhat crude eye. The newbie isn’t the first and won’t be the last.
It’s a character-driven narrative as seen through the eyes of the women and the community that supports or protects the trade. The women are drawn with individual goals, stories. This is a world of the salacious underbelly of fringe society and one where most of us are ignorant. It’s dark and atmospheric and a far cry from the sex entertainment trade movies that produce a rather starry-eyed version with happy endings.
While I suspected the perp, was disappointed in the reveal and the slight let-down of the conclusion. Otherwise, I found the audiobook to be engaging and entertaining. It is well paced with little filler and moves the storyline well, producing more than one or two heart-pumping moments. An unusual premise, plot, and unique characters. Looking for something different? This is out now.
I received a complimentary audiobook review copy of this book from the author and publisher through @NetGalley that in no way influenced this review. These are my honest thoughts.
Rosepoint Rating: Four point Five Stars
The Author: 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 literary crime novel.
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)
©2022 V Williams