It seems like I either love or hate Gudenkauf’s work and there is rarely any in-between. She has a reoccurring theme of females investigating crimes and having access to information that they really shouldn’t and it can either be small enough that it can be forgiven or it can ruin the entire story.
What bothered me the most about this book was how poor a representation Ellen Moore is of a social worker. Just think, if it was you or your own children that were involved in a case, would you want the CPS worker talking to other people idly about it? Carelessly giving personal information out even years after the case has been closed? Of course not. It would go against the code of ethics. A considerable portion of the story involved Ellen discussing a previous case involving a now-grown child to multiple people, some that were involved in the case, and some not. Then there’s the added bonus that Ellen ends up investigating a murder right along with buddy cop, adding her own opinions and speculations on the case without doing any actual police work. She involves a child from a previous case and it is quite frankly ridiculous and a serious violation of the code. I personally found this portrayal of social workers to be incredibly irresponsible.
I also wasn’t digging the pseudo romance between Ellen and the police officer. Ellen is supposed to be happily married with children, yet keeps going back to how she’s sure that mister cop is sweet on her, and how awkward it is even though they’re close friends. I rolled my eyes when she felt guilty not telling her husband about the not date at a diner to look at crime scene photos and discuss a case. This extra bit of fluff just made Ellen’s character more of an annoyance to me.
The plot tries really hard to set up a classic bait and switch in order to throw readers off the trail and make the reveal at the end that much more surprising and exciting, but it was so painfully obvious it just seemed amateurish. A letdown, really, considering how much I love some of Gudenkauf’s other works—this story felt so shallow in comparison. Taking it as an introduction to the characters in Little Mercies, well, I’m not sure if I’d want to pick up the full-length novel after reading this and that’s a shame. Overall, this little novella was disappointing and can easily be skipped.
“It’s not that they don’t love their kids – I know they do – but something has distracted them; a boyfriend, alcohol, drugs or life has hardened them so that they aren’t capable of expressing that kind of love.”