Book Review: Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

Man, I’d love to know what Gillian Flynn thinks about right before she falls asleep.

Sharp ObjectsSharp Objects was her debut novel and my favorite of the three (the others being Gone Girl and Dark Places). The story unfolds over a couples of weeks from the first person point of view of Camille Preaker. She is a journalist in Chicago and a recovering cutter who is sent back to her hometown of Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on the murders of two young girls. The incidents happened nine months apart, but based on the fact that both girls were strangled and their teeth were removed post-mortem, police think the crimes are connected.

Camille is anything but prepared to go home. She grew up unloved and promiscuous, living in the shadow of her middle sister’s early death, counting the minutes until she could leave for college and a life far, far away. Wind Gap is the kind of small town that cannot keep its people in check. Gossip, secrets, fraught with the kind of boredom that breeds drugs, alcohol, and abuse of all kinds. Camille faces everyone and everything with hesitation – former friends who feign interest, locations that hold ferocious memories, and the ever-present cold rejection from her mother. There’s also the bewildering behavior of her youngest sister, a half-sister, who behaves one way at home and another way when she’s out. It’s Crazytown.

There’s very little I can say without getting deep into the plot. At 250 pages, it’s a quick read and the pace is stellar. The characters are ripe, a few being the epitome of a psychopath by possessing a trio of perverse behaviors: sexual deviance, cruelty to animals, lack of empathy. Sharp Objects is vulgar in every way. It exposes the way we hurt ourselves to gain sympathy, the way we hurt others to relieve our own pain, and the way we rationalize warped behavior because we’re desperate.

A quick note: By page 48, I knew the guilty ones. On page 195, Camille had figured it partially. Neither Camille nor I knew exactly how the crimes played out until the very end.

Flynn writes in a way that leaves nothing out, nor does she add what’s unnecessary. We are brought to the point on every page and strung along with her garish and graphic language. In Sharp Objects, I’m reminded of Chuck Palahniuk. It’s not full-on Chuck Palahniuk, but it’s a whiff. There is plucking, gouging, scraping, and, of course, cutting.

For those who want a peek into that world, I highly recommend this book.

Buy Sharp Objects here. 

Book Reviews: Seventy-Seven Clocks and Dark Places

seventy seven clocks coverI have no experience with Christopher Fowler books, but based on Seventy-Seven Clocks, I won’t be trying out his work again anytime soon. I picked up the book for two dollars at a used book store in Georgetown last September. A crime novel? Okay. A Peculiar Crimes Unit? I’m intrigued!

Right away you know Christopher Fowler is a Sir Arthur Conan Doyle fan, and while I’d like to think this series of crime stories is an homage to Sherlock Holmes, it failed to hook me in every way. Where Doyle was succinct and clever, Fowler was repetitive and predictable.

London Detectives May and Bryant of the Peculiar Crimes Unit have to figure out who’s behind a string of bizarre deaths – rat poison, snake venom, spontaneous explosion – and catch the guy before another member of a large, prominent family dies. The peculiarity of the story is interesting enough to keep reading, but the space between crimes is long and the constant retelling of the facts is boring. I wanted to like this book but indeed I didn’t. I was even tempted to quit halfway through, but there’s something very unnatural about that. I’ve only done it once – with A Casual Vacancy – and it still feels like I abandoned someone.

Buy Seventy-Seven Clocks here.

Let’s move on to a book that rocked my socks off. Dark Places. Good golly.

For all the ways Gone Girl made me question denouements, Dark Places left me wondering what goes on in Gillian Flynn’s head. Does she sleep with a nightlight on? Does her husband keep a constant eye on her, you know, just in case?

Dark placesLibby Day lives in a very sad reality. She was seven years old when her teenage brother, Ben, murdered their mother and two sisters. Quite violently, in fact. The family was losing their farm, their jerk of a father only came around for hand-outs, and Ben had begun dabbling in devil worship. Two decades later, she’s living on the fringe. Nearly broke, the kleptomaniac has no real relationships, no self-respect, and no hope. She only thinks of suicide casually now, so there’s a plus.

In a desperate need for money (and a subconscious need to find out what really happened all those years ago), Libby agrees to do some detective work on the murders on behalf of the Kill Club, a group of obsessed people who role play and plead innocence for the incarcerated. They all say Ben is not guilty.

Seriously, they’re all so messed up.

The truth finally surfaces, and once I was on the cusp of that truth I couldn’t put down the book. Gillian Flynn – again – tells a completely CRAZY story of people whom I can barely imagine, but she does it so beautifully that you sort of don’t care that Libby isn’t lovable or that the Kill Club people should find other ways to spend their time. Her storytelling is impeccable. Five stars for sure.

Buy Dark Places here. 

Conclusions on Gone Girl

GoneGirlWhen I read this book last year, I was hooked on every word, relishing the twists and giddy over all of the things I didn’t see coming. It was brilliant – right until the end. Then, like a sucker, I had fallen for a story that left me unsatisfied and ripped off, like I’d been taken on a fabulous date only to be dumped on the doorstep. I took to the internet and found solace with others like me who rejected Gillian Flynn’s ending. I also discovered that there was another group, just as strong, who defended the book in its entirety. We were at an impasse.

Before I dig in, I’m going to give you an out. For those who’ve not read the book (or seen the movie), turn away NOW so you aren’t exposed to spoilers. If you don’t care either way, go ahead, but I’m going to talk plainly about this story so consider yourself warned.

Continue reading “Conclusions on Gone Girl”