Keep Your Demons on a Leash
By Charlie Blair
It’s common in today’s thrillers and mysteries that protagonists must “confront their demons” to reach their goals, but in Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects, her character is forced to utilize them. In Sharp Objects, a journalist tries to uncover the truth of two serial murders, but in order to do so she must fully face her own past for the first time. This produces a gripping page-turner of a novel that offers two points of suspense: piecing together the truth in the present, and discovering the unknown that took place decades before.
Camille Preaker has her demons, and she knows it. On her return from a stay at a psychiatric hospital, she resumes her job as a struggling journalist for the Chicago Daily Post. Her boss assigns her to cover what he believes could be a big break for the second-rate paper: a case down south concerning the murders of two preteen girls. However, this mourning town is Wind Gap, Missouri, which so happens to be Camille’s hometown; and, to be frank, she is not excited for the visit home.
Her arrival in Wind Gap gives Camille more than she signed up for, and she’s thrust into the stress of revisiting her strained family relationships, tensions with the detectives on the case, and the emotional burden that the case itself presents. As the case goes on and her time in Wind Gap lengthens, Camille finds herself torn between inhibitions and instincts. She knows about her issues that put her in the hospital, but she begins to feel that there’s more that she has repressed seemingly beyond the point of retrieval. In order to uncover the truth about the two girls, she must recognize what she has so deeply buried in her own past.
In Sharp Objects, Flynn displays an incredible sense of control over a plotline. She knows what she wants to say – and she knows how she wants to say it. This book was increasingly difficult to put down as I went along. Flynn had moments of beautiful language, such as when she chose to describe Camille’s character while still retaining a weighty relevance to the story: “I could feel my thoughts blowing back on themselves, dirtied with old prejudices and too much insider knowledge.” Camille struggles with herself just as much as she does with the case at hand, playing a mental match of tug-of-war throughout the story between following her instincts and the limitations of her own inhibitions. This book is full of suspense as you try to solve, not one, but two mysteries, and it demands attention; for a debut novel, Flynn deserves it. She performs not only as an author but also as a master manipulator as she takes the reader for the ride of her design.
I’d recommend this book to anyone who loves a good psychological thriller or a slightly twisted protagonist, or who enjoyed Gone Girl. This probably isn’t suited for a squeamish audience, as it can be graphic or just plain uncomfortable at times… but then you’re probably not a psychological thriller fan, so take your pick: to read, or not to read Sharp Objects.