Sharp Objects is the multi-award winning and nominated, 2006 debut by Gillian Flynn, the American author of a little book that you may have heard of, called "Gone Girl". So why is Mystery in Minutes reviewing this in 2018, you might ask? First, because Sharp Objects was the only full length novel of Ms. Flynn's that I had not yet read, and second, because the crime fiction world is all atwitter about the highly anticipated, July 8th premiere of HBO's Sharp Objects mini-series, starring Amy Adams as Camille Preaker, and Patricia Clarkson as her mother, Adora.
Sharp Objects is the story of a Chicago newspaper journalist who returns to her hometown of Wind Gap, in "the boot heel" of Missouri, to report on the disappearance of a young girl, less than a year after another preteen girl from the community was found, murdered. I have always thought of Missouri as a mid-western part of the US, but Sharp Objects has a Southern Gothic feel to it (Wind Gap is "spitting distance from Tennessee and Arkansas"), and, with the exception of very brief references to a computer screen and to cell phones, the book has a late 1950s, early 1960s vibe.
Gillian Flynn is an imaginative, singular wordsmith, and while Sharp Objects is not overly violent, her descriptive style in this macabre and raw character study may be too unrelentingly dark and unsavory for those readers with more "delicate sensibilities". Sharp Objects is not a "thriller" in the truest sense of the word; it is not a novel that you read for heart-pounding action. Ms. Flynn's deliberate pacing might best be described as a "slow cut". At first, the reader experiences just a surface pressure, as we are introduced to the town of Wind Gap, and to some of the characters of the book. Then that pressure begins to slowly intensify and prick at the reader as Camille progresses with her journalistic investigation, until, finally, there is a full-on, deep-dive into Camille's psyche, and her relationship with others, most notably with her mother and her half-sister. This story worms its way under your skin, like a splinter, and with clever misdirection, the reader's need to know which outsider or member of the townsfolk committed these crimes becomes an addictive, page-turning compulsion!
While I have enjoyed all of Ms. Flynn's novels, Sharp Objects is my favorite. If done well, the screen adaptation could be amazing. For readers who relish not only the mystery of solving a crime, but also the examination of psychologically-disturbed characters, Sharp Objects is not to be missed. Wicked, nasty, stunning.
Best for Crime Fiction Readers:
- Who appreciate deeply psychological character studies in their crime fiction and mysteries. Sharp Objects focuses especially upon dysfunctional mother-daughter relationships.
- Who enjoy reading novels of domestic suspense.
- Who appreciate crime fiction and mysteries that include mature, coming-of-age themes.
- Who appreciate Southern Gothic literature.
- Who don't mind, or enjoy, edgier crime fiction tinged with a bit of horror.
- Who enjoy more literary crime fiction and mysteries. Pick up Sharp Objects if you are looking for a "meatier", yet still accessible, read.
Pages: 254-396 (Paperback Editions)
Hours: 9 Hrs. 34 Mins. (Audio Book)
MINM Overall Rating: 5/5 Stars
Are you looking forward to the mini-series adaptation of Sharp Objects? If you've read Gillian Flynn's novels, which is your favorite?
Mystery in Minutes would love to hear from you in the comments below!