Friday, 16 August 2013

Review: Sharp Objects, Gillian Flynn

Sharp Objects

Gillian Flynn

Phoenix, 2007 (2006)

Words are like a road map to reporter Camille Preaker’s troubled past. Fresh from a brief stay at a psych hospital, Camille’s first assignment from the second-rate daily paper where she works brings her reluctantly back to her hometown to cover the murders of two preteen girls.

Since she left town eight years ago, Camille has hardly spoken to her neurotic, hypochondriac mother or to the half-sister she barely knows: a beautiful thirteen-year-old with an eerie grip on the town. Now, installed again in her family’s Victorian mansion, Camille is haunted by the childhood tragedy she has spent her whole life trying to cut from her memory.

As Camille works to uncover the truth about these violent crimes, she finds herself identifying with the young victims—a bit too strongly. Clues keep leading to dead ends, forcing Camille to unravel the psychological puzzle of her own past to get at the story. Dogged by her own demons, Camille will have to confront what happened to her years before if she wants to survive this homecoming.

Camille works for a minor Chicago newspaper, determined to make it as a reporter. Her editor, sensing a story down in forgotten Wind Gap, Missouri, sends Camille to investigate, plunging Camille back into the oppressive small town world she grew up in. Sent to find out more about the murder of two young girls, Camille must also deal with her beguiling teenage sister, her manipulative mother, and the memory of her dead sister Marian.

Sharp Objects oozes that kind of sticky, hot, dusty air that conjured up a very specific image of Wind Gap for me. Flynn really nails the feeling of a small town mourning the loss of two young children - the tragedy tinged with gossip and suspicion - and it was easy to understand how Camille slowly unravelled in the middle of it all.

At the same time as trying to drag a story out of the citizens of her former home and stay on the good side of the local police, Camille must deal with her family, who are (for want of a more eloquent term) slightly mad and definitely unsettling. Camille's mother Adora is a cloying, wheedling woman, powerful and needy all at the same time. Amma, Camille's half sister, seems to be playing all sorts of roles, and Camille (like the reader) is never entirely sure whether she's on Amma's good side, or bad side, or neither. Mix in a selection of Camille's old high school friends, grieving parents, and a perpetually ineffectual stepfather, and Camille is on particularly shaky ground.

Sharp Objects balances 'normal' and 'creepy' well, and Flynn builds the tension gradually, until turning the page was a little bit like peering round the corner in a horror film. This is primarily an exploration of psychological states, rather than a straight crime thriller, and though it wasn't immaculate, it was still very well done.

Overall rating: 6.5/10

Book source: Borrowed from the library.


  1. I started this one on audio a while back and had to drop it because I disliked the narrator. I did get a feel of the atmosphere you describe, though, and I did like the beginning enough to get a print copy and soon. :)
    Great review!

  2. fantastic review, kit.
    " until turning the page was a little bit like peering round the corner in a horror film"
    eek! I know that feeling well and it gives me a feel for the book

  3. Never heard of this one before - but I understand a lot of people love Gillian Flynn and her writing. It definitely sounds like she has a talent for horror and creepy! And I love psychological thrillers!!

  4. This sounds quite intriguing! I usually find it interesting when the MC has to go through whatever is they're investigating .

  5. Flynn is one super talented author, I agree she has the creepiness aspect of a book nailed! Her last two books seriously left me messed up. I'm glad that you were still able to enjoy this overall Kit!


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