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Somehow, when it was released back in June, I managed to miss Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn which was careless because I’m a big fan of the US author’s twisty, creepy thrillers and it turns out this is her best yet. But I couldn’t miss the buzz about it on Twitter or the news that Reese Witherspoon is clamouring to star in the movie version.
One of the things that sets Flynn’s work apart from run-of-the-mill thrillers is that she knows how to manipulate both words and readers. Her prose is vivid and her writing has loads of depth yet the suspense never suffers for it.
She also understands human nature and emotion: love, malice, insecurity, vanity, conceit are all here, intense and authentic
Gone Girl is in its way a love story, but chillingly sinister rather than romantic. Handsome Nick Dunne and his beautiful wife Amy are celebrating their fifth wedding anniversary and Amy’s in the kitchen making crepes having organised their traditional anniversary treasure hunt.
All is not going smoothly for this couple. Both are writers left jobless by the recession and have moved from New York back to Nick’s hometown in Missouri. That evening when he gets back to their rented McMansion, Nick finds the front door wide open, signs of a struggle inside and his wife missing.
As the days go by with no sign or news of Amy, her husband becomes the number one suspect with every clue the police find seeming to point to him. But did he really do it? Flynn and her characters string the readers along ingeniously.
The story is told by alternating Amy’s past diary entries with Nick’s recounting of her mysterious disappearance. Both of them want us to like them; but one isn’t telling the truth. While I don’t want this to be a spoiler, I think it’s safe to say that one is a total maniac.
There are lots of novels out there about marriages coming undone but surely none quite so cunning as this one. The story is served in two portions, the first more recognisable as a standard whodunit, the second turning everything on its head.
Flynn specialises in writing about hurt and horrid people. In her previous novels, Sharp Objects and Dark Places, these have been loners but here what she does is a bit different and looks at the damage two people can inflict on each other in the process of intimacy.
Gone Girl is a pacey read about deception and betrayal. It’s about how little we know each other, and how easy it is to fall in love with a version of someone. It is dark, witty and perceptive, a real wild ride of a read.
Often the climaxes of thrillers entirely fail to thrill me. Not this one. In fact, I almost had to sit on my hands so desperate was I to flick forward and discover how things turned out.