These Women by Ivy Pochoda

These Women is the recent crime thriller novel by American novelist Ivy Pochoda. The paperback edition was published in 2020 by Faber & Faber and the audio book – which I listened to – was published in the same year by HarperAudio and narrated by Frankie Corzo and the award-winning Bahni Turpin. These Women, which was nominated for the 2021 Edgar Award for Best Novel is about six different women, all connected by one vicious serial killer.

These Women is a modern-day crime thriller, set in West Adams, South L.A. It is a searing novel about a serial killer case, where victims are mostly female ethnic minority sex workers. The case began in 1999, at which point 11 murders were committed and 15 years later the killer is still at large, until the killings begin again.

Even after so many years have passed, Dorian is still reeling from the death of her daughter, Lecia, who was the last of this mysterious killer’s victims and uncharacteristically not a sex worker. We follow Dorian’s perspective as she tries to piece together long-forgotten clues leading her to the serial killer. But the narrative is also varied with the stories of five other women, including Feelia, the only woman to survive an attack, the trauma of which drives her to insanity. We also follow Essie, the short detective who persists in following through with this case, despite the ambivalence of her colleagues who always underestimate her.

Pochoda excels at creating intuitively thoughtful POV perspectives that make you empathise with the characters. This novel did make me feel tense but it didn’t feel very suspenseful in that certain events felt predictable, but I loved the razor sharp storytelling and the harsh realism of it.

I also loved how female relationships were explored in this book, particularly the mutual interest and admiration that Julianna aka Jujubee and Marella had for each other as well as the conflict between Dorian and Anneke over their differing views of the prostitutes in their community.

This book inspires conversation on a wealth of topics, such as the marginalisation of certain communities and individuals. It confronts the ways in which women’s voices are drowned out and erased, internalised misogyny and mental trauma and how this can be weaponised against women, rendering their testimonies worthless.

The page count is 334 pages and the audio book is 9 hours long. I thought Corzo’s narration was slightly monotone and lacked the magnetism that Turpin’s had but it was overall an engaging listen.

These Women is a far-reaching book with a powerful feminist voice.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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