Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

I may live under a rock, but even I was aware of Gillian Flynn, though really only of Gone Girl, and the film didn’t inspire me to read the book.  Recently the television adaptation of Sharp Objects popped up on one of my streaming services.  I felt it got off to a slow start but the last half was binge-worthy and menacing and malevolent as all hell and I downloaded the book as soon as the last episode finished.  My impressions of the book are therefore necessarily coloured by my having just watched the TV version.

Camille Preaker, a reporter on Chicago’s fourth largest newspaper, is sent by her editor to cover the murder of two pre-teen girls in her home town, Wind Gap, Missouri.  Camille left Wind Gap to go to college and never returned, but her boss thinks people will talk to her because she’s local.

When she arrives, the second girl has disappeared but not yet been found.  After an unpleasant homecoming, she finds that nobody wants to talk about events.  Very shortly the body of the second victim is discovered.  Camille strikes up a sort of friendship with the detective sent from Kansas City to investigate on the basis they’re the only “non-locals” around.

It soon turns out this trip is really bad for Camille – she self harms, and she drinks, as a direct result of her mother being emotionally abusive.  In addition to the possibility that she might implode, there’s a real possibility that she might be getting too close to the killer, and her family could be literally as well as emotionally toxic.

This is a fairly short book (it was expanded to an 8 hour serial with the addition of several sub-plots) but it’s extremely effective.  Wind Gap oozes menace.  I could feel the heat and humidity and the barely-below-the-surface sense of hostility.  I felt the dysfunctionality of Camille’s family as a cloying, oppressive thing.

I do read a lot of pulpy thrillers, but you don’t usually get this level of atmosphere, of sheer *wrongness* of people and places with this kind of book.  I do recommend it.


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