Read for CBR 10 Bingo: Award winner. It won the “New Blood Fiction Dagger” and “Ian Fleming Steel Dagger” from the 2007 Crime Writers Awards.
I don’t know how to feel about this book. I think like Gone Girl, in which Gillian Flynn makes an improvement over her first novel here for a deeper tale, I will appreciate it more as time goes on. But I’m having a hard time discerning what the point Flynn is trying to make about women and parenting, aside from that it’s complicated. All the women in this book, from the powers-that-be down to the thirteen year old pack of Heathers who run their school are often drunk, high, and oversexed to an almost comical degree. It makes it hard to suss them out as characters.
At the center of the story is protagonist Camille, an empty vessel with a lot of psych issues that are only broached in the book but made manifest on her body. The story wants to get more out of this character than I think it provides. It does not help that Camille has to be the world’s worst reporter. I know she’s not writing for the New York Times, but how she even landed a job with a third rate Chicago paper is beyond me. So large parts of this book are Camille wandering through her old town in a haze of intoxication and pain rather than doing journalistic work.
However, there is a more compelling psychological story here. The mystery itself is easy to discern. I figured it out within 100 pages and I’m usually oblivious. But as I’ve often said, it’s not the whodunnit that interests me but the whydunnit. And without spoiling anything, that is well explored. There is a psychological angle here that works (and would work more effectively in Gone Girl). Certain parts of this book will stick with me. Gillian Flynn has an almost Patricia Highsmith like quality in this regard.
Overall, a good debut work that I think falls shy of her later tales but is worth exploring if you have a strong stomach and don’t mind being triggered by repressed family memories.