Another good read from Gillian Flynn. This was her first novel, but it doesn't show.
Camille is a reporter, sent to her home town after years of self-imposed exile to cover the disappearance of a little girl just months after another girl was murdered - found strangled, teeth removed post-mortem. We quickly learn that Camille has a difficult relationship with her mother, Adora (made me think of She-Ra!), who is a strange blend of iron-willed matriarch and demure, fainting débutante. We also discover the meaning of the title fairly early on - Camille is a self-harmer struggling to curb her own destructive behaviour.
We follow the story from Camille's point of view as she interviews "friends" from her past about the missing girl, learning about her own family along the way - particularly Amma, the thirteen-year-old half-sister she barely knows.
There seems to be a common theme in Gillian Flynn's books - unlikeable protagonists. They're not perfect people, they're flawed, damaged, and entirely up-front about that in their internal dialogue even if, like Gone Girl's Nick, they attempt to hide it from other characters. Camille has low self-worth and mommy issues which, coupled with her self-harm, could easily be cliché, but the way her particular type of cutting is referred to throughout the book is interesting
All in all, I enjoyed the growing sense of unease that the author evokes; it's a slow-burner with lots of dark little details that give you a little shudder every now and then. The hypersexualised kids in this book made for uncomfortable reading at times, but it's all too believable in today's world of child beauty pageants and "grown up" clothing for pre-teens.
There are some great plot elements here that are barely touched upon; for example, I'd like to have had more insight into Alan and Adora's relationship, but I suppose that not knowing what went on behind closed doors adds to the overall air of mystery. As it is though, Alan could have been entirely omitted from the book, and it wouldn't have made much difference.
Regardless, I'm moving straight on to Flynn's other novel, Dark Places. I hope I enjoy it as much!