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.