Exciting, promising, can't-put-it-down debut novels are hard to find - with Gillian Flynn's "Sharp Objects," it seems we've found one more to add to that all too brief list. It's a stunning story, tightly crafted, and appropriately chilling.
Now a reporter for a class C Chicago newspaper, Camille Preaker is a survivor. Her recent past includes a stay in a psychiatric hospital where she was treated for various disorders, including self-mutilation. At the age of 13 she carved "queasy" around her stomach and at 29 "vanish" on her neck. Troubled? In spades.
However, it looks like she may get a break as she's assigned to cover what is probably a serial killer story. On the downside is the fact that the scene of the crime is her hometown of Wind Gap, Missouri, a place she left some eight years ago. She doesn't want to return but the thought of a career making yarn is too tempting and off she goes, back to an old house that holds unhappy memories and a mother who gives new meaning to neurotic.
Two young girls have been murdered, and the local police seem to think a transient is responsible. A handsome profiler from Kansas City doesn't think the answer is as easy as that. Throughout the investigation Camille is forced to relive childhood trauma and confront ghosts that have haunted her through the years.
Those who enjoy psychological thrillers will have found a winner in "Sharp Objects," especially as read by actress Ann Marie Lee. Well remembered for her stage and television performances, she inhabits Camille's persona with nuance and modulation. As the climax approaches we find ourselves listening even more intently as Lee's voice builds, leading the way.
- Gail Cooke