I loved Gone Girl. Who didn’t? Since I finished Gone Girl I have had Gillian Flynn books on my wish list. I started with her debut novel, Sharp Objects. Who did she kill to get a great back cover quote from Stephen King? He said that after he turned the lights out, the story stayed “there in my head, coiled and hissing, like a snake in a cave.” Who does not want to read that?
I was hooked and the book was hyped. Adding to the mystery created by Flynn were underlines created by a previous owner of my copy of Sharp Objects. Lines about teeth and timeline were underlined. The question became whether or not this reader was intelligent or one of those dumb readers who randomly underline things they think might be important, but that end up being random phrases that stuck with them for some reason.
Flynn works for Entertainment Weekly so clearly she is surrounded by the less than normal. Her comfort with the unusual is clear in Sharp Objects. Camille is a mediocre reporter for a mediocre Chicago paper. Her editor asks her to return to her hometown to investigate the murders of two young girls and, we discover later, to make peace with her family. There is no peace for Camille’s family, who lost Camille’s sister as a very young girl. Camille’s mother is distant and her stepfather is almost a non-entity. Her younger sister, however, is thirteen and pulsing with too-soon sexuality and cruelty. Camille is repulsed and intrigued by her family, the murders, and her hometown, but soon finds herself drawn back into the rhythms of childhood.
I was sure I had figured it all out by the middle of the novel, but I was wrong. I was not surprised, but I was wrong. That, ultimately, is the problem with a suspense or mystery novel, isn’t it? How to keep the reader guessing and not be disappointed when the solution is revealed. The best mystery writers know how to do this. Those shaping their craft try to give you a good time along the way so you will forgive them when the solution is not what you had expected.
I am curious to read Flynn’s second novel to see if she continues her theme of the dark depths of the female psyche. In the meantime, Camille’s inscribed body will likely stay with me, even if it is not the snake in a cave Stephen King described.