I don't know why but there is something about summer that makes me want to read thrillers. Maybe it's the heat or my slow summer schedule that makes me crave something dark and disturbing. I also loved Mary Higgins Clark mysteries as a kid, which were nowhere near as messed up as Gillian Flynn's novels, but the darker elements (a killer dancing with his dead victims' bodies, an insane child molester stalking down a little girl) have always stuck with me. I spent a lot of summers reading those books, as well as tons of Agatha Christie novels. Maybe that's where my need for darkness in literature comes from. I'm not much for gore so I've never read Stephen King, although maybe I should.
Anyway, I downloaded a few different samples after finishing The Next Best Thing because I couldn't figure out what mood I was in and I ended up getting hooked on Gillian Flynn's Sharp Objects pretty quickly. And finished it two days later. It was so good. Flynn has a seriously messed up brain. Like Gone Girl, the plot was intense, well paced and totally fucked up.
The story centers around Camille Preaker, a woman in her early 30s (I think), who works as a reporter for a second rate paper in Chicago. When a possibly serial killer situation emerges in her tiny hometown of Wind Gap, Missouri, she is sent home to investigate before a better paper could pick up the story. She is very reluctant to return home to her family as she has a very tense, distant relationship with them, particularly her mother, Adora. She doesn't know her stepfather, Alan, or much younger stepsister, Amma, that well but her dealings with her mother were always particularly difficult.
When Camille returns home, one little girl has already been killed and one is missing. The first girl, nine year old Ann was found strangled in a creek, with all of her teeth missing. Now, ten year old Natalie is also missing and the town is obviously beyond concerned.
Camille struggles with her demons throughout the novel. She is a recovered cutter, who used to carve words into her skin, so often that her body is covered in words. She also drinks heavily throughout the story. And when you meet her mother, and the rest of her family, you understand why.
Camille is not necessarily a likable character. She could have become irritating and weak, but Flynn shows her strength and stubborn nature as the plot develops and keeps the reader from disliking her completely.
I have to say that I was suspicious of a few characters while reading who were behind that happened to the girls. However, Flynn kept me guessing throughout the story and while some of my suspicions were true, the end of the book was filled with enough twists and turns that I wasn't entirely sure I got it right until the very end. All in all, I was completely drawn into the story and I will definitely be reading Flynn's third (the second that she wrote) very soon.
Here's Gillian Flynn's website. There's an interesting essay under the "For Readers" section that talks about how she got into writing these seriously messed up books. I particularly liked this part:
"Libraries are filled with stories on generations of brutal men, trapped in a cycle of aggression. I wanted to write about the violence of women.
So I did. I wrote a dark, dark book. A book with a narrator who drinks too much, screws too much, and has a long history of slicing words into herself. With a mother who’s the definition of toxic, and a thirteen-year-old half-sister with a finely honed bartering system for drugs, sex, control. In a small, disturbed town, in which two little girls are murdered. It’s not a particularly flattering portrait of women, which is fine by me. Isn’t it time to acknowledge the ugly side? I’ve grown quite weary of the spunky heroines, brave rape victims, soul-searching fashionistas that stock so many books. I particularly mourn the lack of female villains — good, potent female villains. Not ill-tempered women who scheme about landing good men and better shoes (as if we had nothing more interesting to war over), not chilly WASP mothers (emotionally distant isn’t necessarily evil), not soapy vixens (merely bitchy doesn’t qualify either). I’m talking violent, wicked women. Scary women. Don’t tell me you don’t know some. The point is, women have spent so many years girl-powering ourselves — to the point of almost parodic encouragement — we’ve left no room to acknowledge our dark side. Dark sides are important. They should be nurtured like nasty black orchids. So Sharp Objects is my creepy little bouquet."
Buy it at amazon and Barnes & Noble.