It’s been six years since I read Gone Girl but I would probably put this ahead of it as Gillian Flynn’s most realized work. It’s miles ahead of Sharp Objects for sure.
There’s not a big departure from anything Flynn has done in other books: a woman horribly abused by life living in a perpetual state of neuroticism and self-loathing who has to either solve a mystery or figure her life out. This time it’s the former and I suppose there’s not a big difference between the three but giving her character the back story of being the lone survivor to a family massacre makes her attitudes more palatable. I couldn’t emphasize with the character and I know she doesn’t want my pity but I was content to let her do her thing for her own self realization.
This book is majorly depressing but the mystery involved is intriguing. Did Libby’s brother Ben murder his entire family in a fit of youthful angst drawn about by Satanist influence? The book turns Libby into a semi-detective, working with a cast of true crime kooks (that this book came out in a pre-Serial world shows how active in the underground those folks were for a long time). It was tough to care much about her character but I cared about her world and how she interacted with the people in it. Flynn is bleak and uncompromising but she is good at letting the story come alive to string you along. Towards the end, I began to care less about its resolution; I was interested in the peripheral resolutions unmasked along the way. They said more about the people surrounding Libby that made her who she is as opposed to the crime.
There’s definitely a True Detective season three vibe: child murders, Satan panic, bleak flyover landscapes. That was part of the reason I read it. And I suppose that itch was scratched. Flynn is a talented writer and this is an entertaining book. But you really need a clear head to read her.