Reviewed by WF Pray, whose books all have well-defined plots.

Let me say first that Gillian Flynn is an incredibly talented writer. She gives every appearance of being endowed with a natural gift for spinning a yarn and is wordsmith enough to deliver some fine writing. Flynn herself admits that she had scads of assistance and encouragement; however, none of this boosting would have meant a thing had Flynn not possessed the inner artist. Her writing skill is much to be admired.

Having said that, together with the realization that Sharp Objects is not recognized as her best work, the vessel of Sharp Objects is kept from failure by Flynn’s masterful writing. Imagine a story without a single sympathetic character, where all of the actors dislike each other, intensely, and where the principal is a distressingly pathetic and self-pitting alcoholic lacking a single redeeming attribute. The plot (to be discussed later) is rather awkwardly woven in and out of a psychological sketch representing a horribly disturbed family. Maybe Dostoyevsky could have kept this tragedy from rolling into farce, but Flynn either lacks the depth or refused to dive deep enough to save it.

You may purchase the book thinking that you are getting a mystery. This is not a mystery story. If it were, nearly all the following criticisms could be forgiven. This is a story of a sick family (the Preakers), locked in a piteous, destructive psychotic embrace. The mystery, such as it is, acts only to frame the melodrama – and is more farce than tragic.

The mystery plot is a bit awkward and somewhat hackneyed: Struggling reporter (Camille Preaker) goes to his hometown to cover the murders of several children, who have their teeth removed to gin up the insane angle. As the real plot concerning Camille’s lunatic family takes over, the murders only pop-up now and again to remind the reader that the book is supposed to be about a serial killer.

Camille Preaker, our schizophrenic and self-mutilating reporter, spends nearly all of her time driving around boozy and drinking vodka from a bottle and lamenting her disassociated relationship with her nutty mother and sister – and another sister who is dead. The solution to the serial murders comes in the last few pages. It is supposed to be a surprise ending so I won’t give it away, except to say that through a process of elimination you’ll know the bad guy(s) about halfway through the book. After you suspect the source of the villainy, the balance of the ‘mystery,’ in spite of the good writing, you must drag yourself through.

While reading, I often gritted my teeth wishing that this talented writer had either written a mystery or a psychological drama in stead of this jumbled concoction where each; the mystery and the emotional drama, threatened to overwhelm the other, leaving neither satisfied. At the end of the day, I feel certain that readers with a keen interest in psychological drama will be just fine with Sharp Objects and will find the mystery an annoying interruption.

At this point, and before I render any final judgment, I feel obliged to move on to Gone Girl, Flynn’s much-acclaimed work. Perhaps there, the plot may be more balanced.