I've wanted to read Gillian Flynn's debut novel pretty much since it was released in 2009 but as so often happens, I just never got round to it. Until I stumbled across it in the Amazon Kindle Summer Sale for £1.99 and decided that was too good an offer to pass up. I devoured the book in a matter of days and while it's been a couple of weeks since I finished it, I still can't quite get the characters out of my head.
Chicago newspaper journalist Camille Preaker has just been assigned the most difficult job of her career. There's been a nasty child murder in her home town of Wind Gap, Missouri and Camille's boss wants her to head back into her past and get the full story. But Camille's hometown is full of ghosts, memories of pain, sadness and loss. Going back there may not be the best idea.
Triggered by the death of her young sister Marian when she was thirteen, Camille began carving her grief into her skin. Now, aged 32, she's finally put the self harm behind her but the visible memories remain. Camille's skin is covered in words, cut into her skin as an addictive form of self expression. Only one spot on her body remains free from words - a tiny circle of skin on her lower back that she had been unable to reach. But once she's back in Wind Gap, there's more than the words on her skin to remind Camille of her troubled past. There's her mother Adora to do that. Not to mention being surrounded by the High School cliques she grew up with and who seem stuck in the past, re-enacting their School days in an adult setting. As Camille comes to realise, nothing ever really changes after High School. We just get older.
But Camille has more to battle than her new proximity to her mother and thirteen year old half-sister Amma. She has her job to contend with. Two gruesome murders have plagued Wind Gap. Two pre-teen girls have been killed and their teeth pulled out. Who would do this kind of thing? Surely it must be someone from out of town, some drifter with a penchant for cruelty? I mean, no Wind Gap resident would ever kill one of their own, would they?
As Camille delves deeper into the mystery of the murdered girls, she finds herself sucked into her old life. Her troubled relationship with her mother is slowly re-emerging and the strangely Lolita-esque Amma is sending out confusing signals. What exactly does she want from Camille?
This is more than your simple Crime novel. This is a psychologically taut and emotionally deep novel. It's not afraid to touch on the more traumatic elements of family life and that's what I liked most about it. Camille is a complex character (one of my favourite kinds of character) with an even more complex history. And the relationship that she and her sister Amma have with their mother is incredibly disturbing and psychologically intriguing.
This is one of the best crime novels I've ever read and Camille is definitely one of the best narrators I've read so far this year. I'd love to read a sequel that shows where Camille is now and how she's doing with her life. I'd recommend this novel to anyone who likes psychologically taut drama. And as you've probably guessed, I'm giving this a 5/5.