Samantha is a kind-hearted dancer at the Lovely Lady strip club who takes a new dancer under wings. One night, when the new girl needs a ride home, Samantha agrees to drive: a simple decision that turns deadly.
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.
Drawing on her experience as a former dancer, Marie Rutkoski immerses us in the captivating world of the club, which comes alive with complicated people trying their best to protect themselves and those they love. Character-driven and masterfully plotted, Real Easy gets to the heart of the timeless question: How do women live their lives knowing that men can hurt them?
Real Easy caught my attention when I was putting together my most anticipated books of January 2022 list. Many popular and contemporary mysteries and thrillers include the same features, plot points, etc. in every book. Refreshingly different, Real Easy is mostly set in a strip club and from the point of view of the dancers.
Real Easy is a missing persons and murder mystery with strong character development told through multiple points of view. While I found the storyline to be compelling, it does take a bit of time at the beginning to pick up pace. This is primarily because Marie Rutkoski introduces each character and provides a bit of their backstory. In this way, Real Easy is a bit of a character study.
Rutkoski’s writing style was more literary than the typical mystery. I do think that this writing style contributed to the pacing being less than fast-paced. However, I enjoyed the writing and found it refreshing for the genre.
I would be lying if I said that I did not pick up this novel because the main characters were dancers at a strip club. As with all subjects I am unfamiliar with, I was curious. I also learned before Real Easy was published that the author is actually a former dancer. Rutkoski does a great job creating characters with depth and avoiding the characters being stereotypes. The characters are presented in a manner where you do not feel like they should be pitied nor are they glamorized. Instead, Real Easy provides a candid and humanizing look at working in a strip club in a manner that also creates a gritty story.
There was one major part of the book that did not work for me – the narrative’s wandering focus. I felt like too much focus was taken away from the primary storyline. There were a number of subplots like random romantic relationships and a detective’s childhood that were explored without it adding to the overall narrative. For me, Real Easy included some elements that could have been cut out without taking away from the plot.
My only other note is that if you have a difficult time keeping characters straight, beware that the dancers have stage names and real names that can make it a bit more confusing to keep the many characters and points of view straight.
Overall, I thought Real Easy is strong debut novel that I quite enjoyed. I did not rate it higher simply because there were some extraneous elements woven into the book that I found took away from the main storyline. I do recommend reading it and deciding for yourself. I am looking forward to seeing what Marie Rutkoski writes next.
January 18, 2022