Friday, July 20, 2007


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 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.


Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Was it George Bush, who said he wanted American families to be less like the Simpsons and more like the Waltons.

I forget of it was the first George Bush or Dan Quayle, but the statement was particularly stupid for at least one reason in addition to the obvious ones: The Simpsons is one of the most strongly pro-family creations in the history of American popular culture. Every member of the family gets into trouble, there are all kinds of fights, but they always persevere and stick together, no matter what happens.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

6:41 PM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Unfortunately I have only watched about 30 minutes of the Simpsons. Due to an argument between Rupert Murdoch of Sky and Richard Branson of Virgin Media, my cable supplier, I am not able to now watch The Simpsons, but clearly I seem to have missed out on a family values program.

My point was that Camille is not a balanced or happy individual.

3:31 PM  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Oh, I got the intent of your comment. I was just sticking up for The Simpsons and making fun of a particularly inane comment by George Bush.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

7:04 PM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Many people in the UK think Homer Simpson is the President of the USA.
But then we cannot understand your strange system of electing Presidents. Our leaders are decided by birth, or as in the case of two of our last three Prime Ministers by coup d'etats within the ruling party.
After a few more weeks of PM Gordon Brown, we will regard George Bush as competent and will demand the return of Tony Blair.

4:18 AM  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

"Many people in the UK think Homer Simpson is the President of the USA."

I enjoyed that comment. It is a great sport here to make fun of Americans' supposed ignorance of world affairs, but my American brothers and sisters would never make the mistake of assuming that a cartoon character is your prime minister.

Incidentally, I was surprised to learn on my recent visit to the British Library how few clauses of Magna Charta are still part of English law.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Love Work, Hate Lordship, And Seek No Intimacy With the Ruling Power"

6:40 PM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

The photographs of Abraham Lincoln show how he aged incredibly from 1859-1865 under the stress of the Civil War. Tony Blair aged twenty years in his 10 years in office, and now in a month events have added years to the craggy features of our new PM Gordon Brown.

2:34 AM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

From today's Daily Mail:
"Yes they cut corners, and their son Bart is the despair of his teachers. But they are a fundamentally decent family, who are endlessly tricked by the system.
They are mortgaged to the eyeballs and their cruddy suburban house, identical to that of all their neighbours, is revealed to be jerry-built on non-existent foundations - as are, by implication, their hopes and dreams.
Homer and Marge think they can control their destiny but we, of course, can see clearly that rich fat cats, and the government, hold all the trump cards. The gallows humour of this show is that there is actually no hope for families like The Simpsons.
That will sound a familiar state of affairs to most families in Britain today, who (perhaps far more than their American counterparts) are nonetheless able to laugh at whatever predicaments life throws at them."

The more I read about the Simpsons the more I regret I have not watched them. Obviously all those hours reading about Jackson, Jefferson, Lincoln, Wilson and Teddy Roosvelt in the quest to understand America would have been better spent watching the Simpsons.

9:13 AM  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I would not say you've been wasting your time. Those subjects of your reading are at least the equals of The Simpsons as keys to understanding America.

By the way, in one favorite scene, the statue of Jefferson at the Jefferson Memorial comes to life and complains to Lisa Simpson of his neglect in favor of Abraham Lincoln: "Oh, sure, what did I ever do? All I did was write the Declaration of Independence etc."

But don't despair. When you're done reading Toqueville, you can watch The Simpsons in the several available DVD compilations.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

1:03 AM  

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