Flynn?s conflicted heroine is journalist Camille Parker, who is holding down a job on a low-rent newspaper, convinced that she?s inspiring only feeling of disappointment in her editor, who has nursed unfulfilled hopes for her journalistic career. Camille, from a small town called Wind Gap in Missouri, sees herself as white trash, but actually hails from a moneyed family. To maintain her sanity, she has escaped from the town and her highly-strung, hypochondriac mother. But bad news beckons: she is summoned by her editor, who suggests she return to her home town to cover the abduction and murder of two young girls. Despite all her reservations (not least for her own mental equilibrium), she feels she must go, returning to the impressive Victorian mansion that was her home. She is quickly back in dangerous territory with her demanding mother ? and reminding herself how she fell into a dark cycle of self-harm. Another problem is her Lolita-ish half-sister, a precocious teenager with a following of alienated girlfriends and some dark secrets of her own. Back in this destabilising territory, Camille is reminded of the childhood tragedy that left a mark on her. Looking into the deaths of the murdered girls, she starts to make big mistakes: going to bed with the investigator assigned to the case, and, worse, getting involved with the prime suspect, a disturbed teenager.
This heady brew of Southern gothic is dispatched with an assurance that totally belies the fact that this is a debut novel ? and, what?s more, will have most readers hungry for more of Gillian Flynn?s individual brand of sexually-charged menace. --Barry Forshaw