When Camille Preaker is assigned to cover the disappearance of a young girl in her home town, she isn’t exactly thrilled at the prospect of returning to the place where she lost her younger sister and subsequently began self-harming. She grudgingly accepts the assignment to prove to her boss that she is a capable journalist.
Wind Gap, Missouri is a small, unremarkable town that hardly anyone leaves, a town that holds few happy memories for Camille. Visiting her family is by no means a positive aspect of returning home: her mother Adora is cold and distant as always, her step-father Alan is painfully awkward, and her bratty half-sister Amma is a trouble-causer around town. As soon as Camille arrives, she sticks out like a sore thumb – it is traditional there for women to marry and start a family young, to spend their lives topping up their tans, bleaching their hair, having face lifts and indulging in nasty gossip. Camille’s unmarried and childless status is unconventional to say the least.
The police are reluctant to share information with journalists about the disappearance of ten-year-old Natalie Keene, leaving Camille to question citizens instead. Word soon gets out that the police believe Natalie’s disappearance may be linked to the murder of nine-year-old Ann Nash that took place a year ago. Since the town is so small, speculation and suspicion are rife. When Camille begins digging into the mystery, she notices that the two girls were known for being tomboyish, opinionated and bad-tempered – traits which are not considered acceptable for young women. It becomes apparent that the person targeting the girls wants to punish their lack of femininity.
Camille learns that despite many of the people’s pampered appearances, they have some very ugly secrets. The more she scratches the surface of this seemingly predictable and repetitive community, the more grisly things become.
Sharp Objects is Gillian Flynn’s debut novel, and she quickly establishes her knack for writing unsettling characters and delightfully gruesome scenes of violence. What is most striking about Flynn’s writing is her commitment to exploring the dark sides of humanity through her leading female characters. Although the plot isn’t as shocking as Gone Girl, the story is still just captivating and enjoyable.