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 of 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.
“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.”
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 let down, really, considering how much I loved one of Gudenkauf’s previous works, The Weight of Silence. 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 could easily be skipped.
When the body of a woman is discovered in a local park—with her bewildered four-year-old son sitting beside her—veteran social worker Ellen Moore is called in to assist in the police investigation. Positioned beneath a statue of Leto, the goddess of motherhood, the crime is weighted with meaning and, Ellen discovers, remarkably similar to one from a decade past.
Ellen’s professional duty is to protect the child, but she’s not equipped to contend with a killer. As she races to connect the dots, she knows her time is running out. And the stakes are high: if she fails, another mother is sure to make the ultimate sacrifice.