|Public details: In These Women, her fourth novel, Ivy Pochoda asks readers to consider one of the themes that unites her books: Who are the people we overlook, ignore, don't see, dismiss in the world? The title characters of Pochoda's new book at first seem to be the prostitutes and club dancers of a bleak stretch of South Central Los Angeles, a place everyone thinks is "ugly" and "messed up."
What unites Feelia, Lecia, and Julianna is a serial murderer who preys on female sex workers, many of whom come from Latinx or multiracial families that hold plenty of shame about street and club occupations. No one seems to care about their files or their fates. "These women" refers not just to sex workers or murdered females, but to the many women in the book and even in South Central L.A. who are their community's lifeblood.
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. However, 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.