I finished reading Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn yesterday, and have had to pause to catch my breath. This is an incredible debut novel, and I can well understand why it won both the New Blood and Ian Fleming Steel Daggers from the Crime Writer's Association.
Camille Preaker a reporter with a Chicago newspaper returns to her home town, Wind Gap, Missouri, to cover the disappearance, and subsequent murder of Natalie Keene aged 10. She is the second girl to have been murdered in the town : 9 months before Anne Nash, aged 9, had been discovered in a nearby creek. Both girls had been strangled and had their teeth removed.
"It's at the very bottom of Missouri, in the boot heel. Spitting distance from Tennessee and Arkansas,........It's one of those crummy towns prone to misery............The local bar Heelah's, serves nothing pork related, only chicken tenders, which are presumably, processed by equally furious factory workers in some other crappy town."
Camille stays with her mother Adora, stepfather Alan, and half sister Amma in their large Victorian mansion, where years earlier another half sister Marian had died. Adora is the richest woman in town, and owns the local hog butchering factory.
an elaborate Victorian replete with widow's walk, a wraparound veranda, a summer porch jutting out back.......The Victorians, especially southern Victorians, needed a lot of room.......to avoid rapacious lust, to wall themselves away from sticky emotions.
This is as much a story about broken relationships and broken people, as it is a crime thriller.
Camille, is a very disturbed person, and this town is not the best place for her, holding as it does memories and secrets from the past.
Her estranged and difficult relationship with her mother Adora, is complicated by her precocious 13 year old half sister Amma, who has a weird control over her little group of friends. Camille becomes friendly with the investigating detective Richard Willis, who has been sent from Kansas city to help the local police.
Most people believe John Keene 18 year old brother of Natalie is the killer, but a young witness reports that in fact Natalie was abducted by a woman.
There is a build up of tremendous tension throughout the book and just when you think everything has become crystal clear, and it is not difficult to work out, there is a tiny little twist in the tail.
I have to admit I love the American heartland, all those small towns with their high school football teams, diners and gas stations.
There is actually a real Wind Gap in Pennsylvania, that I have driven through many years ago on my way from Easton to Stroudsburg and Tannersville.
I have spent many happy weeks driving the back roads of the Upper South, and all the towns have an aura of menace alongside that wonderful American hospitality. The rest rooms are cleaner than you expect, and the food is better than you could hope, while some of those "crappy" towns are set amid beautiful forests and mountains. And of course they do make such a wonderful setting for crime thrillers.
Wind Gap as created by Gillian Flynn comes straight out of Faulkner, with the characters by Tennessee Williams, only Gillian's are more frightening and more deranged.
Was it George Bush, who said he wanted American families to be less like the Simpsons and more like the Waltons.
Well I like my fictional, and real women, to be more like Paola Brunetti and certainly not at all like Camille Preaker, and her family. This is a very exciting novel which grips you from the start, but it is not for the faint of heart, or the sensitive.
I'd submitted myself to boys; Do what you want; just like me..........Amma's sexual offerings......... Do what I want; I might like you.