Someone is killing little girls in Wind Gap, Missouri. Hoping to scoop the bigger newspapers, an editor at the Chicago Daily Post sends reporter Camille Preaker to the tiny town to cover the story. Wind Gap just happens to be Camille's hometown, the very place she left the first chance she got and never looked back. After her return, Camille slowly comes to realize that the murders and her own hidden horrors are more closely tied than she could have imagined.

It's hard to describe this bone-chilling debut by Gillian Flynn (lead TV critic for Entertainment Weekly) without resorting to language that could be found in a horror movie trailer: haunting, shocking and skin-crawlingly creepy are all apt terms. But the story and the characters inhabiting it are anything but clichéd. Camille's hard-edged hypochondriac mother and her manipulative, beautiful much-younger stepsister occupy central roles, but just as intriguing are the Kansas City cop called in to assist on the case and John Keene, the brother of the most recent victim, whose open grieving makes many see him as a prime suspect. Camille herself is the most fascinating of the bunch. She has spent a lifetime trying to numb her pain by carving words into her body. Her left wrist bears the scar of "weary," while her back reads "spiteful" and "tangle," and her chest is branded with "blossom," "dosage" and "bottle." Camille literally ran out of room on her body before turning for help, and she now medicates her urge to cut with heavy doses of bourbon. Bringing the killer to light may be just the thing to liberate her own spirit.

Sharp Objects is incredibly disturbing, but Flynn's powerful prose shines a light on the beauty that can rise out of dysfunction. With this novel's perfectly picked, sinister details (the killer is plucking his victims' baby teeth) and well-established pacing, readers will find themselves helplessly hurtling towards the haunting conclusion.

Iris Blasi is a writer in New York City.

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