Three Rivers Press, 2006
2007 Steel Dagger and 2007 New Blood Dagger
Source: library copy
So I decided to read Sharp Objects after hearing and seeing so many rave reviews about Gillian Flynn’s latest book, Gone Girl. I wasn’t sure what to expect except that the story would be disturbing, and my expectations were definitely met. It’s a story that leaves me uneasy, and I’m not sure I’m in the mood to read more Gillian Flynn for a long while.
Sharp Objects is narrated by Camille Preaker, a crime reporter for a small Chicago paper, who returns to her hometown in southern Missouri to cover two murders of young girls. She is a bit standoffish and closed off from other people, and as the story progresses we learn what problems she’s had in the first 10 years of her adult life and, more importantly, what her childhood did to her psyche. Camille is not the model of journalistic ethics, but I’m not sure what reporter in a crime novel really is: it would make for a boring story. More interestingly, however, is how unreliable a narrator she is, primarily because she’s so in denial about her childhood and family life as a defense mechanism. An oblivious reporter who jumps into several conflicts of interest while reporting on a series of small-town murders is not the most sympathetic choice of narrator.
What does work in this novel is the air of weirdness and eventually horror as Camille returns to her hometown for the first time in years. Not only is her thirteen-year-old half-sister Amma an odd mixture of hostility and sweetness, but Camille’s old friends and neighbors in the town of 2,000 odd people of Wind Gap are a sordid and sad lot as well. Also, the pacing in this book is quite good. It’s not fast-paced at all, but it feels organic: I didn’t feel bogged down by the investigation or its dead ends like I often do in other crime novels. Flynn doles out the revelations bit by bit, and the story grows odder and odder.
It’s difficult to say more about this book without entering into spoiler territory, but this is definitely a book that I want to discuss more in a future post.