What happens when justice fails? That's the theme of this heavy-handed "mystery" about the unsolved cold case of an abducted teenager. To be fair: whi...moreWhat happens when justice fails? That's the theme of this heavy-handed "mystery" about the unsolved cold case of an abducted teenager. To be fair: while the killer is announced early on, Hoag delivers enough twists to satisfy most mystery fans. Unfortunately, the failed justice theme is not really explored so much as announced loudly and repetitively, with no thought to the flip side of the issue: if we fail to have a system of innocent until proven guilty, we risk having a lynch mod mentality where innocent people are killed for crimes they did not commit. Anyway, this isn't bad as thrillers go, but it's not exactly subtle and not to my taste. I found it especially unpleasant to read several scenes from the point of view of a panty-sniffing sexual predator.
I read this for a book group. While you do not need to have read the first two in the series to follow the story of this one, there is plenty of hinted at backstory in the inhabitants of Oak Knoll. I found it distracting and felt like I needed to read the other books to pick up the nuances. That said, I won't be doubling back to find out their stories. (less)
Sharp Objects is just as compulsively readable as Gone Girl, and far more disturbing. Is that even possible? Hell, yes. I feel like I should scrub my...moreSharp Objects is just as compulsively readable as Gone Girl, and far more disturbing. Is that even possible? Hell, yes. I feel like I should scrub my brain with Lysol after reading this.
In the worlds Gillian Flynn creates in her novels, the more beautiful, rich, and perfect you are, the darker your secrets, the more depraved your soul. Set in southern Missouri, Sharp Objects creates a mid-South small town more decaying and corrupt than a Flannery O'Connor story peopled by the cast of Mean Girls and run by a family so dysfunctional it's like reading V.C. Andrews on acid. Oh, and along the way, she out-Poes Poe with moments gruesome enough to make me squirm in my seat. That said, the narrator, Camille, is believably, painfully, hopelessly flawed (the scene where she attempts to patch up her failed relationship with a blow job leaps tragically to mind here); and the town (minus the murders) is far too much like the Arkansas town where I spent two years of high school. (Apparently, judging from this book, nothing changes in that part of the world. I will never go back there. Ever.) Perhaps it is that level of realism, combined with the high Southern drama that made this such a compelling, yet viscerally horrifying read. Truly one of the most disturbing books I have ever read.
Dark Places is set in 1985, following the events of one dark day that culminate in a horrific triple homicide, and 2010, when the lone survivor of the...moreDark Places is set in 1985, following the events of one dark day that culminate in a horrific triple homicide, and 2010, when the lone survivor of the 1985 massacre begins to question her memories of that day and sets out to discover what really happened. For those who love the 1980s, Flynn gives us the dark underbelly of the bubblegum and tube socks decade: the same decade that brought us the 7-year McMartin daycare case, satanic ritual abuse scares that were little more than witch-hunts, suggestive investigative techniques, and repressed memory syndrome. In both eras, Flynn reminds us of some of the darkest places in the human soul - the fixation on violence and the small selfish cruelties that can and sometimes do escalate to tragedy. (The Salem Witch Trial came to mind more than once while reading this.)
As in Sharp Objects, Flynn depicts believably flawed, irreparably damaged characters, and as in that book the final chapters provide glimmers of hope for these survivors of unimaginable horrors. My only problem with this book is that, while neatly plotted, it takes a remarkable level of coincidence for all the events of this book to coalesce as they do. Still, the relentless buildup of these elements makes this book near impossible to put down. (less)
I picked this up because my Mom was reading McCrumb, and asked me if this one was part of McCrumb's Ballad series. It's not, but I was intrigued by th...moreI picked this up because my Mom was reading McCrumb, and asked me if this one was part of McCrumb's Ballad series. It's not, but I was intrigued by the premise: murder at a Fantasy/Sci-Fi Convention. I may not be the best judge of mysteries, as I don't read many, and I won't give away any clues, but the denouement seemed a bit (for lack of a better word) cheesy. I'm not sure why it won an Edgar. That said, I was prepared to give it 3 stars up until the end, because it was entertaining. McCrumb's description of the convention-goers is amusing at times; at other times the one-note stereotypes of these "losers" (in the words of McCrumb's proto-feminist English professor heroine who seems to feel superior to the other female conventioners, since she has lost enough weight to fit in her Emma Peal costume) seem more cruel than affectionate. If you can get past that, it's a nice light read for a rainy Saturday. (less)
An undeniably well-crafted mystery, this one was hard for me to get into because of the desperate organized crime setting: really couldn't see any goo...moreAn undeniably well-crafted mystery, this one was hard for me to get into because of the desperate organized crime setting: really couldn't see any good ending for main characters, Michael and Elena. Still, a complex story, strong characters, and a surprise ending paid off. Be warned: there is very disturbing, hard core violence, including torture, in this book. (less)
This ambitious first novel reads a little like someone's mfa thesis. I wanted to like it, but maybe the whole famous literary/historical figures solve...moreThis ambitious first novel reads a little like someone's mfa thesis. I wanted to like it, but maybe the whole famous literary/historical figures solve a mystery has been a bit overdone. The characters did not ring true for me, and the writing was uneven.(less)