I do not have a vast experience with crime novels. Indeed, I can not remember reading a single one before signing up for the MA Creative Writing (Novels) course at City University London (of which I am currently in the fifth week). But suddenly, in a very short space of time, I have read over twenty. And I am pleased to say for the most part, I loved them.
Previously I wrote a plethora of unmarketable comedy. I had a rather successful/unsuccessful rendevous with an agent, who said that my work was ‘very funny’ but ‘wouldn’t sell’ which is a weird thing. You always assume, in some capacity, that if something is good it will get the recognition it deserves. However, this seems to not be the case all the time.
Garnering attention is not a problem for Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. With the power of Ben Affleck and David Fincher behind the movie adaptation (not to mention a good marketing budget), no doubt the book has found itself into many more homes in recent months and for good reason. Amongst the many crime novels I have read, Gone Girl is one of, if not the, best.
Gone Girl follows Nick Dunne, an everyman the world spat out and left to simmer for awhile. He’s jaded, cold and not particularly looking forward to his fifth wedding anniversary. Well unfortunately he doesn’t know the chuffing half of it, as his lovely wife Amy has disappeared, complete with bloody mess and signs of a struggle. All signs point to Nick who did it. But then that would be all too easy, wouldn’t it?
Gone Girl is all about the big twist. The big oh-my-god moment and luckily it doesn’t hold out on that. Whereas other novels I have read in my fast splurge of crime fiction (eww, that sounded horrible, I apologise), sometimes the big twist is saved till too late, sometimes authors seem to revel too much in the I-know-something-you-don’t-know of it all. But Gone Girl doesn’t leave you hanging. It drops it’s big twist early, just when things seem to be a bit too formulaic and obvious and two dimensional. Thankfully, it’s never formulaic, obvious or one dimensional again.
Gillian Flynn really comes into her own in moments of high intrigue; she loves to play with the reader but it is all for the sake of the novel. The secrets are dropped with relative frequency and it never seems that the reader is unnecessarily unaware of anything. Things snap together for the reader much as they do for Nick himself.
Talking around the twist is rather difficult, so let’s talk instead about the characters. Nick himself is a brilliantly flawed creation. A man who has been hardened by the difficulties of life, Nick seems like the hero we all deserve. Nick feels uncomfortable so he smiles at the press conference, he feels socially awkward so he takes a selfie with an obnoxious woman, he bumbles and fumbles his words like the best of us. Nick is like Batman in a sense (you see, cos it’s Ben Affleck…you see?), doing the best of a bad job.
The other characters are also flawed. Nick’s twin sister, Margo, is a crude and steadfast young woman who seems to be inexplicably entangled in her brother’s life. We never see anything of Go’s life, it’s entirely possible that she has many friends and lovers, but she seems to be too interested, living vicariously through Nick, sharing his pitfalls and problems.
Amy’s parents Marybeth and Rand seem very broken by parenthood. They have leeched their daughter and made her into a fictional character. The loving they give to Amazing Amy, a book form of Amy herself, receives more love than Amy herself. They seem to be a cardboard cut-out of concern when their daughter goes missing.
There are plenty more fascinating characters, from the slippery Desi Collings, a man who stalked Amy when she was younger, to Noelle Hawthorne, a best friend to Amy even though Nick has no idea of the friendship. As Gone Girl unfolds around the reader, the perception of almost everyone changes. Is Desi really a slithery creep? Is Noelle really a genuine friend? Did Nick really kill his wife? Of course, there is one real character I haven’t talked about, Amy herself. That is the subject of another post, a little down the line when spoilers are not an issue.
In the end, Gone Girl is a fantastic puzzle. It is a jigsaw that thrills with every click of a new piece. Gone Girl will keep you intrigued until the last page, which is a marvellous thing seeing as it drops it’s big showstopper less than half way through.