Florence "Florida" Baum is not the hapless innocent she claims to be when she arrives at the Arizona women's prison—or so her ex-cellmate, Diosmary Sandoval, keeps insinuating. Dios knows the truth about Florida's crimes, understands the truth that Florence hides even from herself: that she wasn't a victim of circumstance, an unlucky bystander misled by a bad man. Dios knows that darkness lives in women too, despite the world's refusal to see it. And she is determined to open Florida's eyes and unleash her true self. When an unexpected reprieve gives both women their freedom, Dios's fixation on Florida turns into a dangerous obsession, and a deadly cat-and-mouse chase ensues from Arizona to the desolate streets of Los Angeles.
Incendiary ... A narcocorrido-infused crime tale that nods to westerns, Shakespeare, Greek tragedy and Joan Didion, among others ... As palpably immersive as Pochoda makes prison life in the first part of the novel, her writing deepens when the action shifts to COVID-ravaged Los Angeles ... Pochoda writes with insight and empathy about women pushing back on the violence perpetrated against them — and also, conversely, their shame at their inability to act ... While the first part of the novel, depicting prison violence, may be tough going for some readers, Sing Her Down’s acknowledgment and dissection of women’s rage — how it can overwhelm or be tempered — makes it a watershed achievement in Pochoda’s expanding body of work.
Pochoda captures a locked-down L.A. with her signature vivid, gritty prose ... Redundancies are symptomatic of a tunnel vision dogging Sing Her Down, a novel whose narrow focus grants it a combustible intensity, but also forces its images, ideas and characters to play the same notes on repeat. Ruminations on violence go stale from iteration ... Pochoda is gutsy enough to tell us the cross streets of the final confrontation on the second page. When the big showdown arrives, it is as brutal and beautiful as the landscape in which it unfolds. There’s a fire in this novel that its flaws can’t extinguish.
A bleak setting to be sure, but brilliantly explored as Pochoda burrows deep into her characters’ psyche ... Pochoda sifts through myriad literary tropes, including allusions to Macbeth, mythology, even a bit of a Greek chorus, while not losing sight that Sing Her Down is a crime novel ... Her staccato writing further elevates the novel and is reminiscent of James Ellroy’s style, only more refined.