What happens next is anybody's guess. When Nick arrives at work around noon, he receives a call from a neighbor saying their cat is outside and their front door open. Amy's disappearance begins a police investigation that quickly spirals out of control. Throughout the media circus that ensues, readers are prisoners to Nick's first-person narration. By using his voice to tell the story, author Gillian Flynn ensures that readers of her third novel, Gone Girl, know only what Nick chooses to share.
As the police detectives increasingly begin to look at Nick as the prime suspect, the reader is forced to question his reliability as a narrator. Further discussion of the novel's plot would spoil some of the fun for those who haven't read the book yet, so I'll stop there. Suffice it to say that Flynn throws plenty of twists in to keep the novel interesting until the very last page.
What could have turned into a sensational, fictionalized version of the Scott and Laci Peterson story is instead a well-crafted masterpiece of a novel in Flynn's skilled hands. Although the storyline seems pulled from the headlines in a very Lifetime Movie Channel sort of way, Flynn manages to relate the story of Amy and Nick in a decidedly un-melodramatic manner.
Told in passages from Amy's diary, Nick's narration, and then a second first-person narrator halfway through, Gone Girl is a larger-than-life tale of suspense that also doubles as a genuine piece of literary fiction. Although the genre could be considered mystery, Flynn's skill as a writer allows a crossover into literary fiction status, as well. The writing elevates Gone Girl to a step above your everyday, run-of-the-mill mystery paperback and pushes it into the field of serious literature.
Gone Girl released last week to high praise from various sources. A smattering of what's being said:
- Entertainment Weekly: "On page 219, Flynn pulls the rug out from under you — and, by the way, you didn't even realize you were standing on one. Now I really am going to shut up before I spoil what instantly shifts into a great, breathless read."
- New York Times: "Perhaps these sound like standard-issue crime story machinations. They’re not. They’re only the opening moves for the game Ms. Flynn has in mind, which is a two-sided contest in which Nick and Amy tell conflicting stories. . . . Both Nick and Amy are extremely adept liars, and they lied to each other a lot. Now they will lie to you."
- USA Today: "Flynn's 'first two books (Sharp Objects and Dark Places) showed her skill and dark imagination, but Gone Girl sits on another plane altogether. And it's a brilliant, often funny, and gothic take on a hugely fascinating subject: marriage.'"
- nomadreader: "Gone Girl is a thrilling, mysterious, awesomely deranged tale of a marriage. Flynn kept me guessing throughout the novel, but more importantly, she kept me marveling at her mastery of language, suspense, story, character and pace."
- Huffington Post: "Let's just say, you'll never think of marriage and wedding anniversaries the same way again."
- NPR's Morning Edition: "It opens with a rather sinister reflection: 'When I think of my wife,' Nick says, 'I always think of her head.... You could imagine the skull quite easily. I'd know her head anywhere.'"
Additionally, Gone Girl was named one of Amazon's Best Books of the Month for June 2012.
Gillian Flynn is the author of two previous novels: Sharp Objects and Dark Places. I've read both, and I think their darkness is largely what kept them both off bestseller lists. With Gone Girl, Flynn has finally struck the perfect balance between good writing and creepiness, ensuring that just enough nightmarish content is present to thrill, but not turn off, hoards of readers. Let's all hope that Gone Girl is the first in a long line of perfectly executed literary thrillers from the immensely talented Flynn. You can learn more about Flynn on Facebook or on her website.