Monday, July 7, 2014

Books - Sharp Objects and Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

Since Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl was the best novel I read last year, I thought I would try her two previous books, Sharp Objects and Dark Places.

Talk about dark, DARK mysteries/thrillers. Sharp Objects is about a depressed, mentally ill reporter who is forced to go back to her small Missouri hometown to cover a recent murder. She interacts with her family, one of the world’s most dysfunctional, and uncovers secrets that no one wants to see the light of day. The story is incredibly downbeat, with child murder and other sick stuff. When the story wraps up with some sense of optimism, the author can’t stand it and throws in one final gut-punch twist that makes the reader want to slit their wrists. While a well-written debut novel, it is not for the faint of heart and some passages are tough to read, even for my iron stomach.

Dark Places goes some rather ... dark places, if you will. A (again) depressed woman’s family was slaughtered in her Kansas farmhouse when she was eight. She managed to escape into the woods. She testified against her brother for the crime and he is in jail for life. Now in her 30s, a pack of murder groupies has convinced her to look into the crime and see if he really did it. More than her other novels (and that’s saying something), Dark Places is populated by some of the most damaged people I’ve ever encountered. All characters suffer empty, awful lives of murder, depression and drudgery, with their only hope being a bitter and unfulfilled future. Although the mystery is resolved in a satisfying manner (relying on unlikely coincidences that stretch credibility to the breaking point), the reader is left with an acid feeling in the back of their throat. This book is well-written with a great sense of thrills and pacing, but I wanted to take a shower at the end. Time to read about Middle East politics to get a sense of positive optimism.

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