Gillian Flynns Gone Girl is a natural sequel to Chelsea Cains Heartsick, Novembers Murder Ink review. Theyre both about obsessive, matriarchal relationships, with men hanging by peculiar psycho-sexual strings wrapped around the fingers of manipulative shrews.
Heartsick is the more salacious of the two books: We climb into the mind of one of fictions most criminally deviant and sexually desirable female minds readers will never forget Gretchen Lowell, shes just too horribly made real. With Flynns Gone Girl, we will never remember Amy Dunne, but her villainy will be remembered as a glimpse of a brilliantly insane harridan.
The characters in Flynns new book are merely pawns to the story. We follow the circumstances of New York 30-somethings Amy Elliott Dunne and her husband of six years, Nick Dunne. Nick loses his job as a journalist; Amy loses her hobby job at about the same time. They move back to Carthage, Mo., as a consequence of being unemployed at the same time Nicks twin sister needs help caring for their rapidly declining parents.
Amy is the beautiful daughter of two psychologists who gained fame and riches from a long series of best-selling childrens books under the rubric of Amazing Amy. Amy is rich; Nicks sluggish. Amy is perfect, while Nick just feels lucky to know such giftedness. Amy is bright and manipulative; Nick is a regular guy who forgets anniversaries, doesnt bring home flowers and stinks at being Ken to Barbie, all of which are meticulously noticed by awesome Amy.
Amy doesnt want to move to unglamorous nowhere, but her script allows for the magnanimous move; its what any amazing woman would do for her husband under such circumstances. It doesnt go too well in the mostly empty suburban subdivision of McMansions fronting the dirty Mississippi River: Nick has no work, Amy has no friends among the mundane, mother is dying, father continues to break out of the Alzheimers ward and Amy goes missing one day.
The scene: front door agape, furniture overturned, blood on the kitchen floor. Nicks fragmented alibi would include his unwitnessed leering through porn magazines in the garage of one of the empty subdivision homes in addition to an earlier two-hour tryst with a college coed neither advisable excuses, so he says he was at the beach, alone.
Did Nick kill Amy? Clue after clue says so, the press is devouring the case, and Flynn hasnt given us enough of the Nick character to know if hes capable of murder.
Flynn alternates first person narratives from Nicks growing dilemma to Amys daily diary chronicling absurd but eerily verifiable events in their marriage. Flynns writing is delicate a womans voice and Amy and Nick are always people we dont really know, vaguely sketched so we cannot ever be sure of them or form an opinion. Its stylistically fascinating and flawlessly tatted right to the final page.
Its no wonder Gone Girl has been on The New York Times best-seller list for 28 weeks running.
Jeff Mannix is a local journalist and author. Reach him at JeffMannix.com.