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?
Advance Praise for Real Easy
An Amazon Best Book of January
A Crime Reads most anticipated book of 2022
A Glamour (UK) Best Book of 2022
★ “Rutkoski’s writing…serve[s] to emphasize a larger point: that even in ugliness, loss, and tragedy, there is humanity. Though the killer is unmasked, the takeaway is much more universal—and satisfying—than just finding out whodunit: This is a story about flawed people just doing the best they can to live their lives and find love. Vulnerable yet steely, this thriller rises above the rest.” —Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW
★ “Rutkoski’s writing is a pleasure here; she weaves well-calibrated suspense with gritty portrayals of dancers and detectives that hold strikingly parallel themes of loneliness, painful pasts, and heavy doses of distrust.” —Booklist, STARRED REVIEW
★ “Rutkoski uses the familiar plot of a police search for a killer targeting women to paint moving portraits of desperate lives on both sides of the law…Fans of psychologically rich thrillers will hope for more from Rutkoski.” —Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW
Real Easy “offer[s] a kaleidoscopic view of a morally precarious world where male desire is a whisker away from male violence. With a cast of fully realised characters – the cops have troubles of their own, and life at the club, with its overlay of sleazy glamour, is balanced by domestic vignettes and quotidian concerns – this is a familiar story told in a way that packs a real emotional punch.” —The Guardian
“Very possibly the best crime fiction book since Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects,Real Easy is turn-your-phone-off-and-cancel-all-your-meetings gripping. But it is also so much more than that: every character is instantly alive and recognizable the moment they appear on the page; the writing is sustainedly beautiful and intelligent, at times lyrical, at others, sassy and crackling; and the psychological underpinnings are unerring, resonant, utterly convincing. This book is a winner, whichever way you turn it.”
―Neel Mukherjee, Booker-finalist author of The Lives of Others and A State of Freedom
“With gorgeous prose, well-drawn characters, and crackling suspense, Real Easy is an unforgettable thriller that stuck with me long after the last page. Beneath the drum-tight plot is a brilliant examination of femininity, safety, and the roles women play. I couldn’t put it down.”
―Andrea Bartz, New York Times bestselling author of We Were Never Here
“This book blew me away. Real Easy is an electric thrill ride that takes a hard look at the high price women pay for men’s desire. Rutkoski renders her characters with exquisite compassion and detail, even as the book accelerates toward an unforgettable conclusion. Gritty, glittery, and pulsing with life.”
―Sara Sligar, author of Take Me Apart
“With a fully-realized world, a compelling mystery, fascinating characters, and beautiful prose, Marie Rutkoski’s REAL EASY will capture readers and stay in their minds forever.”
―Jill Santopolo, New York Times bestselling author of The Light We Lost
“Bold, compelling, brutal and brilliant. On the surface Real Easy is the kind of gritty, gripping mystery I just adore, yet it’s also full of heart and hope and the most endearing characters.”
―Chris Whitaker, New York Times bestselling author of We Begin at the End
“Rutkoski is that rare gem: a writer whose prose is as splendid as her plotting. The result is a taut thriller with the potency of a poem, a propulsive story at once brutal, elegant, and impossible to put down.”
―V.E. Schwab, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue