Fresh Blood

Name: Gillian Flynn

Title of Book: Sharp Objects

'Sharp Objects is a dazzling and strong first novel and I am sure Gillian Flynn will be a name to watch out for in years to come.'

Camille Preaker is a journalist for a newspaper in Chicago that is not widely read by the populace. Camille is sent back to her hometown of Wind Gap, Missouri when speculation runs rife that there is a serial killer on the loose within its small boundaries. Not only does Camille have to contend with getting a story from a tight-lipped community, she also has to face her mother who she has not seen or spoken to for some years. Back in Wind Gap, the memories of her horrendous childhood threatens to overwhelm Camille as she tries to continue her investigations into the abduction and killings of two young girls.

As Camille begins to re-acquaint herself with her estranged family, she begins to get caught up in the machinations of the local gossipmongers who, whilst putting on friendly faces, all seem out to undermine their dearest friend or neighbour. Even Camille’s mother is not above such rumours. As Camille’s demons quite literally fight just below her skin, she finds that her tormented past holds the key to all that is happening within Wind Gap.

With a promotional sticker on the front cover with a solid recommendation from a literary giant like Stephen King, you really can’t go wrong! This is a quirky little tale, not only about killing children in a small town like Wind Gap, but also about survival through childhood. Examining along the way the obstacles that are thrown at people during their years of development and how we can sometimes hide the past when it is too painful. Flynn’s first novel is all about children, puberty and growing pains, physical and mental. Camille’s own pain, which is reflected in the title, is startlingly portrayed throughout the book yet it isn’t sensationalised and becomes an integral part of the novel. It is a part of Camille, and the reader feels that without her condition, she wouldn’t be whole (this will all make sense when you turn the pages, readers, trust me…).

I am not sure if the author actually comes from a town like Wind Gap, but she certainly populates this town with its fair share of grotesques. The women of Wind Gap get a very raw deal. Here are women who have had cosmetic surgery (some of it not quite so successful); rich, bored, housewives with errant husbands, grown up children and lots of time on their hands. They also have many petty squabbles amongst the womenfolk and the importance of class/social standing - which should have died out with the Victorians - is by all accounts alive and well in Wind Gap.

This is a fable for the 21st Century. The writing is top class, although I did feel the author slightly lose her way about half way through the novel. However, she bounces back and manages to pull out, perhaps, not a surprising denouement, but certainly a most satisfactory one. However, the plotting is secondary to the description of Camille’s feelings about herself, Wind Gap and, most of all, her dysfunctional family. Certainly Camille’s mother could be classed as a monster, and whether she is misguided or not is left to the reader to decide…

Sharp Objects is a dazzling and strong first novel and I am sure Gillian Flynn will be a name to watch out for in years to come.

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating

Fresh Blood Questionnaire

1) Crime novels encompass many sub-genres and styles. How would you describe your book?
It’s a creepy psychological mystery….the narrator, a bright but troubled reporter, is as much a puzzle as the murders she is covering: What happened in her childhood that left her so vulnerable? Why does she identify so strongly with these murdered little girls? It’s also a bit of a gothic fairytale gone wrong: A tiny town, surrounded by woods, where bad things are happening to children.
2) What type of crime novels do you prefer? Do you prefer series or standalone?
My first “detective crush” was Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot, and I’ve gotten overly attached to many other detectives since, from Dennis Lehane’s tough Boston duo to Jacqueline Winspear’s proper Maisie Dobbs. And not to forget Dorothy L. Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey! My all-time favorite detective, however, is Ross Macdonald’s Lew Archer: The series is pure, perfectly written California noir, with a detective who’s tough but incredibly decent.
3) Have you had the idea of writing a crime novel for some time?
For several years I had pieces of Sharp Objects in my head: A wry narrator who wasn’t entirely reliable and who had a toxic relationship with her mother; a creepy, violent little town in southern Missouri; little girls gone missing. It finally all started to come together—which I’m grateful for, otherwise I’d have three or four unwritten novels still floating around in my brain!
4) Who or what influenced you to write a crime novel in the first place?
I started reading mysteries at a very young age and always wanted to try my hand at one. The idea of all the plotlines and tangles daunted me for quite a while though. Finally I figured I’d better see once and for all if I could do it.
5) Your book, Sharp Objects is based in Missouri. You seem to have a wide knowledge of this area. Is this an area you know well? What made you decide to base your novel there?
I’m from Kansas City, Missouri, which is a mid-sized town on the border of Missouri and Kansas, but I spent a lot of time in southern Missouri growing up. Wind Gap, however, is not based on any specific place. It’s pure fiction: a scary fairy-tale town, where violence festers.

6) Some of the women in Wind Gap could be described as ‘grotesques’, especially Camille’s mother, Adora. Even neighbours like Jackie and Camille’s old school friends are not ‘politely’ portrayed. Are these characters really to be found within the confines of Missouri or are they exaggerated monsters?
Sharp Objects has any number of nasty women—I wanted to explore the very female brand of violence and ugliness: the cattiness, the insinuations, the psychological warfare that’s every bit as damaging as two men brawling in the street.
7) Part of the plot of your book concerns individuals self-harming. What made you interested in this particular condition and incorporate it within your novel?
My narrator, Camille, is incredibly lonely at her core. She doesn’t know how to rely on people, or even how to express anger or sadness properly. To me, self-cutting is simply the loneliest act in the world. It is a very self-contained thing. You cut, you suffer the cut, you heal the cut. You are bully, victim and hero all at once.
8) Would you describe yourself specifically as a Crime fan and, if so, which classic and current authors do you most admire?
Huge crime fan—I love all the authors I’ve named above with a passion! Add to them Robert Harris, Sarah Caudwell, James Ellroy, Richard Price….
9) What is your favourite crime read of all time?
Several times a year, I pick up Christie’s And Then There Were None, The Hollow, or Death on the Nile—my comfort-food reads. For a layered, complicated, meaningful mystery novel, you can’t beat Dennis Lehane’s Mystic River. And my favorite Ross Macdonald novel is The Goodbye Look. Perfect!
10) What is your favourite movie adaptation of a crime novel?
I gotta pick two. For pure terror, Silence of the Lambs. For pure enjoyment, Evil Under the Sun—great Agatha Christie period piece. Incredibly clever and dazzling to look at.