Reviews from Lord Taylor of Glencoe
Sharp Objects: Gillian Flynn, April 5—17, 2016
My rating: ♦♦♦♦◊
Up-and-coming reporter Camille Preaker returns to her hometown to cover two potentially linked child murders in Flynn’s debut novel. Returning to her former childhood home for the duration, and reacquainting herself with the small-town social scene, she has to face her own past demons.
The double murder investigation is very much a setting for a much more emotive plot. Camille is an outsider living with her mother, step-father and half-sister. Everything from her damaging relationship with her mother, to the historic death of her younger sister in childhood, lingers.
As she did most famously with Gone Girl, Flynn makes a thriller out of a story based most fundamentally on relationships. The stakes, the unknown, the threat of them all are fitting of the thriller genre. For Camille as a barely reformed self-harmer and borderline alcoholic, it really could be a matter of life and death.
Flynn has a skill in taking any situation and magnifying the ugly side of human nature. The mother is abusive. The thirteen-year-old sister is a sexually provocative bully. The townspeople are narrow-minded and superficial. Only Camille can see it all, and she too is flawed. It’s an uncomfortable read in places.
Though addictive and well paced, it’s evident this is Flynn’s first novel; it lacks the sophistication of Dark Places and Gone Girl. The subtleties are overt, and her trademark twist-filled endgame is signposted all along. It’s written in a shocking way, but the outcome won’t give you an Amy Dunne moment.
Sharp Objects brings Gillian Flynn to the market as a skilled thriller writer, but it’s her later works that hone that skill to world class level.