Camille Preaker is returning home and her welcome could not be any less warm. The illegitimate daughter of a wealthy and controlling, but oddly distant, mother, Camille has found some sense of self in her job as a newspaper reporter in Chicago. Sent back to the small town where she grew up to cover an investigation into the murder of two young girls, Camille ends up uncovering more than she bargained for ...
Many readers will already be familiar with Gillian Flynn who is the author of the brilliant thriller Gone Girl, which has recently been made into a feature film. I read Sharp Objects after a recommendation from my cousin April who assured me that this one is even better than Gone Girl and she was spot on there. Sharp Objects is a surprising and often eerie psychological thriller and sometimes it is difficult to know what is worse--what is going through some of the characters heads, or the harm that they cause others.
Camille's estranged family--controlling mother Adora, idiotic and snobbish stepfather Alan, long dead half-sister Marian and her two-faced delinquent sister Amma-- make for quite a toxic bunch and it is obvious that Camille has quite a few problems of her own, mainly in the form of self-harm.
The murders of the two girls is quite horrific. Both appear to be ritualistic killings by a serial killer--the teeth of each of the girls is missing. Is it somebody in the town who is responsible, an outsider or is the truth much closer than what Camille thinks? Certainly there is something quite odd about Amma, who never loved her oldest daughter, and the fact that both of her half sisters seem to suffer from a strange, never-ending string of illnesses (which eventually killed Marian,) that has never been questioned. There is also some quite interesting scenes where we see what makes both Adora and Amma tick when they think that no one else is watching. (In this sense they are Camille's opposite.)
When the eventual murderer is revealed the novel poses questions about how women are stereotyped and how it may be easy for some women to play on these stereotypes in order to get away with some quite horrific crimes. Then there is the question of nurture--how easy is it to love and to allow oneself to be loved in return?
While I was eventually able to understand most of the characters and their motivations, one remained a total mystery to me, that of Alan, Camille's very distant stepfather. Was he really so much under Adora's thumb? Or was he just totally oblivious and unconcerned about the workings of his own household? Then again, Camille describes him as "the opposite of moist" and maybe that description fits the character well.
A challenging and eerie psychological thriller. Highly recommended.