Page Count 320
Publication date January 2020
Publisher Headline, Tinder Press
It’s 1999 and Samantha has danced for years at the Lovely Lady strip club. She’s not used to mixing work and friendship―after all, between her jealous boyfriend and his young daughter, she has enough on her plate. But the newest dancer is so clueless that Samantha feels compelled to help her learn the hustle and drama of the club: how to sweet-talk the boss, fit in with the other women, and make good money. One night, when the new girl needs a ride home, Samantha agrees to drive: a simple decision that turns deadly.
Georgia, another dancer drawn into the ensuing murder and missing person investigation, gathers information for Holly, a grieving detective determined to solve the case. Georgia just wants to help, but her involvement makes her a target. As Holly and Georgia round up their suspects, the story’s point of view shifts between dancers, detectives, children, club patrons―and the killer.
I picked up Real Easy from Netgalley when I was drawn in by the cover. I’ve recently leaned away from books that require heavy investment and stuck to crime, suspense and thriller genres as opposed to my usual horror, fantasy and scifi. This one looked like it would fit the bill and I recognised the author name.
The epicentre of Real Easy is the mysterious protagonist, we only know he’s familiar to Samantha. There are familiar tropes; the pair that won’t admit they’re in love, the typical white trash stripper, the hardened cop with a traumatic past etc. You can probably guess most.
What is unique to Real Easy (but reads like a token addition) is Samantha’s disorder, a woman with an XY chromosome. A lot of emphasis is put on this to begin with which made for clunky reading. I got the sense of a character trait thrown in as an afterthought to tick boxes. Thankfully the sapphic subplot was much better handled and felt genuine.
I’d lean toward Samantha being the main focus but with so many intersecting POVs; from the club, her family, the police and the strip club patrons her peril gets lost amongst the noise.
I was most annoyed by a single sentence at the midway point of Real Easy that destroys any suspense Rutkoski had managed to build. I can’t share it without spoiling for others but if you read (or have already read) this book you’ll know it immediately.
Of all the character segments throughout Real Easy my favourite was Georgia’s -unsurprising as she was the only likeable one aside from Samantha herself.
That said, the strip club made an entertaining location and I enjoyed the bitchy banter between the dancers. It was interesting to read the circumstances that had lead each girl into that life and how their stripper aliases differed to their out of work personas, even if these weren’t all necessary additions to the plot.
Around the 50% mark Rutkoski starts to throw in a lot of minor character POVs which felt like lazy red herrings to me- including a massive, sloppy coincidence when a very minor character resurfaces for a single pivotal moment.
At this point I realised none of the characters had developed very much during the story, if at all.
For fans of crime thrillers I do recommend Real Easy as a run-of-the-mill, serial killer guess who mystery. The characters and setting were entertaining but aside from that it’s a little generic. An average rating from An Average Life.