In this novel, we see the world through the troubled vision of Camille Preaker, fresh out of a psychiatric facility, and just as fresh as a Chicago journalist. Her editor sends her back to her home town – Wind Gap, Missouri – to cover the slaying of two young girls. To do the job, Camille goes back to her own home, where her weird mother and even weirder half-sister, live. That house is still in mourning for a dead sister.
So this is small town USA with a killer on the loose. And it’s a story of somebody looking back on the place they left and reliving some of the reasons they went, and trying to hold on to their sanity while encountering some of the bad, bad episodes that mark that time.
Preaker’s story is filled in gradually, alongside the mounting horror as she gets closer to the truth. She mixes with former friends and enemies, the local police, the imported expert, and the main suspect. All the while her interactions are driven, at least in part, by her own skewed perspective and sometimes naive inability to see the wood for the trees.
There’s a lot of work put into that character, and she comes across as authentic and dangerous. She is also a raw individual – in more ways than one – and that comes across in some of the no holds barred description of her exploits.
The small town USA backdrop is not overdone, and keeps the content on track. In other words, the story works in this context.
The plot has a couple of entertaining twists, but they may not come as a surprise to hard core crime readers. That having been said, the atmosphere is well built up, and the suspense equally good.
I think this was Flynn’s first book, and the raw aspect also applies to some of the writing. But after reading the whole book you might feel that it is appropriate. there’s nothing that does not fit the character and her dilemma.
This is not for the faint hearted. It’s dark, gritty, and powerful. Flynn made a good start here.