The Little MenThe Little Men by Megan Abbott
My rating: 4/5 cats
One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

“Just behave yourself, okay? Like a good girl.”

hahahahah ohhhh, sir, i feel i must warn you – megan abbott doesn’t do good girls.

this is just a little wisp of a story – part of mysterious press’ bibliomystery series; where well-known authors write “short tales about deadly books.”

abbott’s story is only tangentially about books, and here, it ain’t the books that are gonna get you. this is abbott returning to her historical-noir comfort zone, and it’s a tingly little tale taking the conventional noir trappings, giving them her usual gender-spin, and incorporating unexpected elements of horror, psychological suspense and paranoia, against the backdrop of 1950’s hollywood.

the basics – failed actress turned makeup artist penny moves into a too-good-to-be-true bungalow with a haunted past and an enigmatic landlady named mrs. stahl (who is NOT greg’s mom). recently dropped by her studio exec lover “mr. d” in the most grotesque way: You were a luscious piece of candy, he said, but now I gotta spit you out, penny understands the cruelty of hollywood in its sexual steamrolling of young ingenues – the revolving door of power and desperation.

It was a rough town for pretty girls. The only place it was. Penny knew she had lost her shine long ago. Many men had rubbed it off, shimmy by shimmy.

and as she well knows – “This town can make a whore out of anyone.”

penny has survived the indignities and iniquities thus far, but in her new home at night, alone and vulnerable, she begins to hear strange tapping sounds and see things she can’t explain. with the help of two neighbors, confirmed bachelors who know all the gossip, she begins to investigate the source of the noises, the mysterious death of the former tenant and mrs. stahl’s possible involvement.

the mystery itself is good, with a kickass last-line reveal, but where abbott always shines is in her descriptions. she does such a fantastic job setting her scenes, with the authenticity of her décor

Number Four, like all the bungalows, was already furnished: sun-bleached zebra print sofa and key lime walls, the brightwhite kitchen with its cherry-sprigged wallpaper. The first place she’d ever lived that didn’t have rust stains in the tub or the smell of moth balls everywhere.

and her libations

…pink gin conjured from grapefruit peel and an old bottle of Gilbey’s she found in the cupboard.

and most importantly – in her descriptions of other women

In the past, she’d had those greasy-skinned roommates to drown out thinking. They all had rashes from cheap studio makeup and the clap from cheaper studio men and beautiful figures like Penny’s own. And they never stopped talking, twirling their hair in curlers and licking their fingers to turn the magazine pages. But their chatter-chatter-chatter muffled all Penny’s thoughts. And the whole atmosphere – the thick muzz of Woolworth’s face powder and nylon nighties when they even shared a bed – made everything seem cheap and lively and dumb and easy and light.

it was a great little taste of megan abbott, to tide me over until her next book, and to remind me that i still have a couple of her girl-noir novels here to read. hooray!

read my reviews on goodreads

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Amazon Disclaimer is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon properties including but not limited to,, or,,, or


this feels gauche, but when i announced i was starting a blog, everyone assured me this is a thing that is done. i’m not on facebook, i’ve never had a cellphone or listened to a podcast; so many common experiences of modern life are foreign to me, but i’m certainly struggling financially, so if this is how the world works now, i’d be foolish to pass it up. any support will be received with equal parts gratitude and bewilderment.

To Top