There’s not a lot I can tell you about Gone Girl without ruining its dark surprises, but I can tell you that it’s an ingenious and viperish thriller — and that no matter how smart you think you are, it’s going to bite you. The novel concerns a missing wife named Amy and a husband named Nick who’s either (best-case scenario) a fatuous phony or (worst) a full-on psychopath. And here’s another thing I can tell you about the novel: It’s going to make Gillian Flynn a star.
Flynn used to be a TV critic at this very magazine — I never worked with her — before dedicating herself full-time to writing sinister best-sellers that freak people out (see interview). Gone Girl is told from alternating points of view. Amy, via chatty journals she kept before her disappearance, narrates the arc of her relationship with Nick, which begins with lovestruck flirting in Manhattan and a giddy marriage in Brooklyn. Then Nick gets downsized from his job as a magazine writer and insists they decamp to his hometown in Missouri. Ostensibly he wants to help his beloved twin sister care for their terminally ill mother, but he spends more time tending to his terminally ill ego.
In his chapters of the novel, Nick relates the police investigation and media frenzy that unfold after he rushes home one day looking for Amy and instead finds her blood on the floor. Nick doesn’t even pretend to be a sympathetic narrator. He lies. He whines. He does incredibly stupid stuff, given the circumstances. As he puts it in a rare moment of honesty, “I have a face you want to punch.” This may sound like faint praise, but Flynn does something here that many “literary” novelists have failed at: She writes from the perspectives of two different people who actually sound like two different people.
The first half of Gone Girl is a nimble, caustic riff on our Nancy Grace culture and the way in which ”The butler did it” has morphed into ”The husband did it.” The second half is the real stunner, though. On page 219, Flynn pulls the rug out from under you — and, by the way, you didn’t even realize you were standing on one. Now I really am going to shut up before I spoil what instantly shifts into a great, breathless read. Even as Gone Girl grows truly twisted and wild, it says smart things about how tenuous power relations are between men and women, and how often couples are at the mercy of forces beyond their control. As if that weren’t enough, Flynn has created a genuinely creepy villain you don’t see coming. People love to talk about the banality of evil. You’re about to meet a maniac you could fall in love with. A