Crown, 432 pages, $25, c2012
It’s so difficult to write about Gone Girl without disclosing at least one of the surprising elements of the book. Author Gillian Flynn should be accorded the “Gotcha” award at the very least, were such an award to exist.
There certainly are precedents in the mystery/crime/suspense world for this type of book. By that I mean, a book that doesn’t necessarily produce a heroic, stalwart character to pin one’s hopes on. Almost every present-day crime novel has a flawed protagonist, but Flynn takes that 20,000 leagues further down. You might throw a pity party for one or the other, but I defy you to like either Nick or Amy, Flynn’s marital combatants, by the end of the book.
Flynn flips the first-person narratives between Nick and Amy. They both agree that their life in New York after they met and married was exciting and romantic. The downhill slide begins when they both lose their jobs.
Nick is from Missouri. His parents are ailing and Nick’s twin sister, Margo (“Go”), needs help taking care of them. So they settle in Nick’s hometown to help. Amy has quite a bit of money in a trust fund set up by her parents, the authors of the “Amazing Amy” children’s books, a once-popular series about a precocious young girl with the same name as their daughter. Nick and Amy use some of that money to buy a bar, which Nick runs with Go.
Nick’s and Amy’s narratives begin to peel off from each other after they move to Missouri and more setbacks occur. Initially there is simply benign malice and a growing distance between them. Then one day, Nick arrives home to find the furniture in his home up-ended and blood on the kitchen floor. Amy’s blood.
Slowly clues pop up that point to Nick as the perpetrator of a crime. There is no body at the scene, so the million dollar question is: Where is Amy? To follow Nick’s narrative, it appears that he is as bewildered as the authorities. Is Amy dead? Did Nick murder her? The noose is tightening.
Flynn’s pacing is excellent, and her ability to keep the tension tight and her story compelling is amazing. Nick and Amy are caricatures of a married couple, but it shortly doesn’t matter if they are believable or not. The game they play with each other is everything.
Should you venture into Nick and Amy territory, as have millions of other readers — who have shelled out their dough for the hardcover and digital versions of this book, the paperback version having been delayed because of the book’s wild success — you, too, may have a strong, strong opinion about the direction the book takes. If so, you might be interested in the author’s view of the controversy her book has engendered: http://shelf-life.ew.com/2012/12/04/gillian-flynn-gone-girl-ending/.