Flash forward to today and I have about a thousand new(ish) books stuffed on top of my bookshelves, on the toilet cistern, in with the saucepans and in my knicker drawer.
Sharp Objects was one of the books stacked on the radiator cover.
It’s the story of Camille, a reporter in the forth-largest newspaper in Chicago. Her editor sends her back to her home town in Missouri to investigate the murders of two young girls. Back in Missouri, she reconnects with her terrifying mother, her milky, insipid stepfather and her scary half-sister whilst trying to get the police on her side to investigate the two murders in a town that doesn’t like talking to outsiders and in the shadow of her sister’s death and her own psychological problems. Sounds fun, huh?
You can really tell this is Flynn’s first book. The first book of hers I read was Gone Girl, then Dark Places and now Sharp Objects and you can really see how she has developed as a writer over time. In Sharp Objects, you can tell that she enjoys putting together screwed-up characters, but it’s kind of like she’s holding something back. Like she’s worried in case a little bit of twistiness is okay, but people won’t enjoy reading about character who’s truly messed up. I think the global success of Gone Girl could set 2006-Gillian-Flynn’s mind at rest on that score, but this is still a good effort.
Camille was nicely messed-up, but she still had enough redeeming features to make her a sympathetic character (contrast this to Dark Places where literally none of the characters had a single redeeming feature among them). How she’d managed to survive being brought up by her awful mother without more psychological problems than she already had, I’ve no idea.
The book is effectively a murder mystery, but there’s a whole lot of psychological thriller thrown in there too. I guessed who committed the murders quite early on, but then we’re thrown a whole bunch of red herrings, so the end was still very twisty. The book didn’t rely on the murder investigation or the reveal for its tension, though. Everyone in town is so delightfully messed up that it’s entertaining enough just to read the story as a character study.
Although this wasn’t as good as Gone Girl or Dark Places, I would really recommend it because it’s still a country mile better than a lot of other crime books out there.