Centered around a young woman named Camille Preaker, a former “cutter” of a bizarre sort, the novel is your classic murder mystery—if by classic you mean all the victims are little girls whose teeth have been yanked out and most of the suspects share your DNA.
Preaker, a journalist, is sent to investigate the seemingly-related murders of two young girls in her Missouri hometown—a place she had thought she’d escaped from. Once there, her reception is less than welcome as her mother, who has the town wrapped around her pinky, sabotages her efforts and creates an all-too familiar atmosphere of hostility for Preaker.
As her toxic mother and wild, popular yet terrifying younger sister close in on her, memories resurface of the childhood Preaker worked so hard to escape from: A sister who died after a lengthy, horrible illness. A mother who is not whom she seems to be. A half-sister who ensnares people perhaps even more thoroughly than her own mother. The closer she gets to discovering who committed the heinous crimes, the more she realizes that her past, her very family, is a horror story in and of itself.
Flynn’s writing is descriptive enough to be tangible, her small-town characterization spot-on and her dialogue seamless. When you think you know anything about what’s happening, Flynn simply shifts a tree and to our wonder, something new appears—a road we had missed completely at first glance.
Her cast is moving, realistic, and brutal. People who should have been knights are found to be fiends; suspects with perfect motives are found to have hearts of gold. And then there is the ending—a twisted turn that will leave you trembling.
Though the novel is praised by Stephen King and has been nominated for numerous awards—including the Mystery Writers of America Edgar for Best First Novel by an American Writer, Ian Fleming Steel Daggers, Crime Writers' Association Duncan Lawrie, and the CWA New Blood—the real reason to read it is to be engrossed in a dark, fast read that you’ll likely have nightmares about.
My kind of read.