Initial thoughts: Dude, I think this book was more of a challenge to read than "Gone Girl". It was dark, the characters were all deeply flawed in some way, and yet I couldn't stop watching how it all unfolded.
Probably rating this at 4 stars.
Quick review for a quick read. "Sharp Objects" is a haunting read. Part of me knew from experience with Gillian Flynn's stories that I'd be in for a tale with many dark twists and turns aligned with some dark humor and dark social commentary. This book was, to me, darker and more sinister than "Gone Girl." Perhaps not as compulsive in terms of finding out what exactly happened, but certainly pulling me forward.
Camille is a reporter from Chicago returning to her hometown after rumors of a purported serial killer targeting young girls reaches her struggling newspaper. Her boss assigns her the case, she reluctantly returns home, meets up with a mother who's more than just overly doting (though dysfunctional would be a severe understatement). As Camille struggles to do her job, she finds that the truth is far worse than what she could speculate, even having some ties with the demons she's tried to escape from her past.
Flynn has a talent for beginning a story with an interesting cover for intrigue, like a prime piece of fruit. Only when you peel back the layers, you discover the degree of how rotten it is, and it doesn't skimp on the details of making you see every bit of its decay. Every single character in this book has secrets, every single one of them is flawed or messed up in some way. There's drug use, sex, abuse, cruelty even from the younger characters and how they treat each other. What makes it more than just a portrait of the worst aspects of its characters is how detailed and complex the character studies are with social context that goes beyond the expected. You understand even the motivations of the minor characters and their part in the greater scheme of the events that revolve around the murder mystery here. Even Camille, who comes across as a sympathetic protgaonist for the horrible abuse and shame she's carried for her external and internal scars, constantly seeks sources of comfort and acceptance in the wrong places and confronting her realities seem to open up more holes for that pain to show through. As she uncovers more clues into the deaths of the girls and the past of the town she's lived in, it's tied to her experiences and perceptions There's pain in her experiences as well as what seems to be a larger commentary of the contradictory labels that women have in society (since this was written before "Gone Girl" - I could definitely see where the root of that commentary had influences and definition to color the latter work, just in a different way.)
I have a hard time saying that I liked this novel or that it's even a favorite because the experience gutted me and was so dark that I found myself taking breaks from it even through a well-narrated audio version (performed by Anne Marie Lee). Yet I found myself pulled into the experience of this novel through how well written, well-dimensioned, and thought-provoking the narrative was as a whole, including with the way the mystery unveiled eventually. I probably should've expected as much for the ending to have the well-tied resolution, but resonate with the dark tone in its ending alongside the overarching color of the work as a whole.
I can certainly say that Flynn is an author I really want to read more from in the future, though.
Overall score: 4/5 stars.