Sunday, January 14, 2018

Girl Gone: A Mystery Turned Thriller Turned Horror Turned Sour

Book Review: Girl Gone by Gillian Flynn
Version: Library Hardcover borrow

Working with an author who was writing his first short stories, I read a particularly interesting cross-genre story -- a mystery, thriller, and potential horror. When I said how much I liked it, he suggested I read Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. So recently, I found myself reading this stunner of a story from 2014 that amazingly begins as a mystery, midway through crosses over into a thriller, and near the end becomes sort of a horror. And it works!

The main characters are Amy and Nick, a love-struck couple from New York City who lose their metropolitan writing jobs and the luster of success. Nick's parents back in Missouri run into major health problems, leaving his sister Margo (called "Go") to handle the stress, so Nick uproots big-city Amy and moves her reluctantly to small-city Carthage, Missouri.

Amy comes from a wealthy family, who has left her a large endowment. Nick is from a broken family, with few resources. Arriving in Carthage with no jobs and only Amy's endowment to live on, Nick taps her endowment to buy a bar, which he co-owns with his sister Go. With everyone under stress, the marriage suffers. On their fifth wedding anniversary, Nick goes home for something and discovers the home in a wreck and Amy mysteriously missing. Unleash the unfolding clues to the mystery, which seem to point to Nick as the killer of Amy!

We meet a host of other interesting side characters. Two police officers investigating Amy's disappearance. Potential other perps. Amy's worried parents. Nick's parents, one who has dementia and lives in a nursing home, the other who is dying from cancer. Amy's diary, telling her side of the story; Nick's narrative telling his side. Go, Nick's dogged supportive twin sister.

Halfway through the book, the story morphs into a thriller. No spoilers here -- suffice it to say, the story takes a sudden amazing turn as we find out the disappearance isn't what we thought it was. And a plot to nail Nick is underway. His very future and life are under threat. We meet new characters, some trying to help Nick, some that are direct threats to others.

And near the end, Girl Gone turns into kind of a horror story. There's an actual murder. Someone is an insidious mastermind at work, as a different kind of threat to Nick and his future continues. And then there's the story of what happened to Amy. Everyone in Nick's life is affected, and not for the good. If you're looking for a good outcome, there isn't one.

For me, there's the rub. After all the work building up the mystery and then the thriller, there's no decent end to the story. It's brilliantly written, well plotted and executed (no pun intended, considering that someone is murdered near the end). The characters are well defined and finely tuned. Descriptions and scenes are exceptional -- Gillian Flynn is a wonderful writer! I would have read it for the excellent writing alone. But I felt cheated at the end. For me, it turned sour.

Gone Girl has offers more twists and turns than a Disney theme park ride. This story was one wild ride. If Flynn had just written a more fulfilling end (face palm). My author friend thought it was a fitting end, considering the complexity and brilliance of the plotter behind Amy's missing and all the mystery and thrill and horror that person planned and executed. To me, it was like making it through a state fair fun house only to fall through a trap door at the end.

Should you read it? Definitely. It's damned fine writing. I enjoyed every paragraph. Just don't be surprised if you feel let down at the end. Let me know in the comments if you disagree.

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