As unnerving as the buzz of a neon light, Ivy Pochoda’s fourth novel, These Women, pulses with a heart-in-your-throat mystery ... On its surface, the setup is familiar, but Pochoda’s ingeniously structured white-knuckler is concerned with upending assumptions; these pages dare us to interrogate what we believe, especially when it comes to who does or doesn’t deserve our sympathy ... Discovering the hopes and hang-ups of each brash, brazen woman is as thrilling as learning how they’re connected and whether they will survive.
Pochoda buttresses her narrative with a distinct and empowered group of women, and it is refreshing to see women in a murder mystery all acting with agency. Even the dancer is cognizant of her choices and acts only through the compulsion of her history, not controlled by some man. Not since Kem Nunn’s Tapping the Source (or perhaps Pochoda’s own Wonder Valley) has a mystery author so successfully and unflinchingly delved beneath the surface of a Southern California subculture to render a portrait that readers will find arresting—no matter the season.
... not only has Pochoda written an immersive, intriguing murder mystery—she's also crafted a framework with which we can examine how all women are viewed in Western cultures, sometimes as madonnas, more often as whores ... almost more chilling than the killer's actions and motivations is the strange family situation in which he operates, one that is so opposite to the lives of his victims that readers will wonder how they can coexist in the same locale, and one that also shows our society's views of women, taken to any extreme, make things bad for us all.
...Ivy Pochoda, in her flawless new novel These Women, has her own angle on the L.A. street, one not only low to the ground, as you might expect, and razor-sharp, but also trained on the women working the most dangerous beat of all ... These Women is at first glance a conventional murder mystery constructed on that sturdy old tripod of serial killer, murdered women and dogged female detective. But each of those elements is freshly minted here thanks to the psychological depth granted each character and the graceful twists of Ms. Pochoda’s cunning yet unfussy plot ... Essie Perry [is] surely one of crime fiction’s most memorable and convincing investigators ... every detail—of the criminal investigation and, equally riveting, of these characters’ lives—draws us deeper into the pulsing, restless city.
... the worthiness of its intentions is often undercut by wobbly execution ... Even as the plot's threads begin to converge and come into sharper focus, it can feel like a struggle to connect to many of them on a deeper level; in part because they’re only sketchily drawn, and because the dialogue, too, often fails to ring true to the lives they lead ... Far more vivid is the city that Pochoda conjures in artful, unmissable detail on nearly every page: a place as textured and immediate as any breathing, sentient character. It’s that world-building that sets the mood for the book’s climactic payoff—a series of revelations that aptly scratch the itch for a satisfying reveal, even if the inner worlds of the victims themselves remain, in the end, a mystery.
... thoughtful, carefully wrought ... In the course of the novel, Pochoda offers glimpses into the lives of nearly a half dozen of 'these women,' shedding light on the common threads that unite the experiences of women as seemingly diverse as a performance artist, a stripper and a cop investigating a series of homicides ... The mystery unfolds gradually and satisfyingly, rewarding careful readers with clues and relying on coincidences that feel convincing, never forced. The novel’s haunting conclusion --- linked to a real-life disaster that struck the neighborhood in 2014 --- will remain with readers for a long time. But even more than the suspense plot, what will stick with them are the fully realized characters Pochoda crafts, giving dignity and voice to those too often discounted.
Ivy Pochoda finds beauty in the gritty side, hope where others see limited options, and grace and strength in those who live on the margins. So do the characters in These Women, the excellent fourth novel from this California author ... Loneliness, courage and the strength to go on swirl through the lives of 'These Women' each of whom Pochoda explores with compassion and empathy as they try to survive South Central Los Angeles’ mean streets ... Pochoda’s fine character studies have imbued each of her four novels, taking another leap forward in the stunning These Women.
... bristles with the dangers women face ... While serial killers dehumanize their victims, and true crime reportage reduces them to before and after photographs, here Pochoda restores their humanity, giving these women identities beyond their relationship to the killer, like a crime fiction Bechdel.
Ivy Pochoda’s These Women seeks to be the literary equivalent of any number of the recent spate of true crime documentaries and podcasts that reveal their respective mysteries piecemeal, while also attempting to inject timely social commentary ... It’s hard to delve too deeply into the plot without giving away the series of well-paced clues and reveals, suffice to say that Pochoda deftly handles an otherwise tricky narrative that, in lesser hands, could easily come off as overly preachy or heavy-handed...These Women fleshes out each character in a way that feels wholly believable and lived-in, lending a depth and breadth to each that, in most contemporary crime narratives, relegates them to the fringes ... Ivy Pochoda has delivered a thoroughly enjoyable mystery novel that manages to be both entertaining and thought-provoking without relying on an overwrought or overly preachy narrative. The book forces you, the reader, to give more notice to the people encountered in our day-to-day lives, fleshing out those otherwise static background players with rich backstories that help illustrate how and why they are who they are while forcing us to reassess our biases and prejudices with regard to those perceived as 'other.'
Laced with grief and rage, racism and sexism, this edgy urban drama centers upon a serial killer’s obsession that targets women of color living a lifestyle that garners little sympathy ... Pochoda...stuns with this disquieting literary thriller rife with descriptive street language and violence. It is complex, intense, and enthralling. Fans of Rachel Kushner’s The Mars Room will experience a similar sense of feeling both captivated and bereft.
Pochoda’s fourth novel...takes place in 2014 in South Los Angeles, where several prostitutes have been found murdered ... With raw, visceral prose, Pochoda vividly evokes L.A.’s distinctive cityscape and the burdens and threats women face there as female bodies are commodified and where women are the targets of horrific violence.
...heartbreaking ... Without sacrificing narrative drive, Pochoda...lets her story unfold organically and impressionistically, through the eyes of her distinctive female characters ... This deep dive into the lives of women too often unseen in the shadows makes them vividly unforgettable.
This seamy thriller is loaded with feminist intentions, ideas about photography...a quick dip into women’s boxing, and more. Unsurprisingly for Pochoda, the strongest character is the LA neighborhood itself ... Gritty, sometimes cheesy, very on-the-nose with its message—but satisfying as a murder mystery.