Sharp Objects, by Gillian Flynn, won the CWA Debut Dagger three years ago, and having just read it, I can understand why. It’s a very accomplished piece of writing, and a disturbing novel of psychological suspense. If you’re after a comfort read, look elsewhere, but if you are prepared for a dark journey, you’ll be gripped by this book.
It’s the story of Camille, a reporter from Chicago, who is sent to her home town, the splendidly named Wind Gap, to investigate the murders of two young (and, it turns out, not very pleasant) girls. Inevitably, Camille goes back to her mother, the pretty but complicated Adora, and recalls the trauma surrounding the death, some years back, of her sister Marian.
Camille has more than her fair share of demons to exorcise, it turns out. Among her own dark secrets is the fact that she self-harms, and after years spent cutting words into her body, she is terrified of anyone seeing the damage she has done to herself. Yet she is a beautiful woman, and becomes involved both with the out of town cop investigating the crimes, and the prime suspect.
Although the story sags a little in the middle, the beginning and end are outstanding. It’s an original and well-written book, with a memorable protagonist and a splendidly evoked locale. Wind Gap isn’t exactly Stepford, but it’s a place where women are in the ascendancy - and not in a good way. I found the book troubling, but it did impress me.