Gillian Flynn’s books have become the ultimate guilty pleasure read for me. The ordinary horror and wonderfully flawed characters she creates keeps me coming back again and again. After reading her other books I was foaming at the mouth for more. That’s when I discovered, Sharp Objects, her first published book. The story revolves around Camille Preaker, a young disturbed journalist, trying to make a new life for herself in Chicago. She lives a half-life there trying to numb her pain with self-inflicted harm and alcohol. When her boss and mentor of sorts, Curry assigns her to cover a string of crimes in her hometown of Wind Gap, MO she is forced headlong into facing her personal demons. Party inspired by Dennis Lehane’s chilly and brilliant Mystic River, the book focuses on themes of violence, family dysfunction and self-mutilation.
What I love about this book and all of Flynn’s previous novels, is her ability to get inside the skin of a tragically flawed character and somehow breathe life into them. Even her so-called ‘villians’ are written with depth and humanity, making them at least somewhat relatable and empathetic. For me its all about the main protagonist, if I don’t like them then it’s hard to me to truly be engaged. I immediately fell for Camille, with her wit and sarcasm and her deep-seeded pain. Through the course of investigation, which turns out to be a man-hunt for a child serial killer, we learn that she is a cutter to the extreme. Growing up with Marian, a younger sister whose ill health ultimately leads to her death, Camille copes by using her body as a mutilated memo pad. She records words of significance that seem to pulsate when the message reverberates back into her life. She has covered almost every inch of her skin, save her face and small hard to reach part of her neck, that she comes to regard as a badge of honor. Having been previously hospitalized for it, she is left ashamed and broken from the experience.
As she navigates the murky waters of the case she is forced to deal with the past and her own complicated family. First their is her wealthy mother Adora, who seems to reserve her love and praise for the town at large and her half-sister Amma, who she treats like a living doll. Amma, who was born after Marian death’s has grown into a spoiled and cruel child, acting like a baby in front of her mother to cover her hard partying and promiscuous sex. Camille’s old friends have become younger versions of her mother; vapid, shallow and two-faced. To escape her home life and in an attempt to dig deeper into the case, Camille begins a sexual relationship with Det. Richard Willis, who was sent from Kansas City to investigate the murders. Through their joint digging and self-realizations of her own, Camille discovers that the answers lie much closer to home than she could have ever imagined.
Underneath the veneer of homespun, small-town life, the town of Wind Gap and its inhabitants are truly terrifying. The story starts out slow and picks up in speed, gripping the reader to the bitter end. Through Flynn’s signature succinct and well-crafted writing,the prose is both addictive and haunting. I personally enjoyed the pace and characters of this book far more than I did Gone Girl and about as equally as Dark Places and Paula Hawkins’ Girl on a Train. For fans of thrillers with dark twists and turns, this book has your name written all over it. Supposedly the book has been picked up and an adaption will be written as a series for HBO. I hope this is not mere rumour, as I think this book would work perfectly as a series, fingers crossed!