Flynnís novel has an apt title, a dense thriller filled with malice, layer upon layer of troubling revelations. Flynn is an extraordinary writer - dangerous, complex, poking into the truly dark places of the human psyche and the murky territory of family relationships.
But this author cuts deeper than most, daring to tread the hallowed ground of mother-daughter relationships and a protagonist deeply scarred by childhood experiences. When Camille Preaker is sent on assignment by her editor at Chicagoís Daily Post to cover the murder of one child and disappearance of another from her hometown, Wind Gap, Missouri, the young reporter is reluctant to return to the scene of her troubled childhood.
The memories of a dead younger sibling, Marian, still haunt Camille, as well as a distant relationship with her thirteen-year-old stepsister, Amma, a changeling who is sweet and biddable at home but wild and cruel in other situations. Then there is her imperious, controlling mother, Adora, a woman with no patience for resistance to her wishes.
Even showing up for a brief stay in her motherís home is uncomfortable for Camille. Adora tolerates no ugliness, her expensive, sterile Victorian home an oasis in a messy world. Camille is not allowed to speak of her assignment, of murder, her mother grieving for both dead girls, whom Adora had taken under her wing.
This is one of those eerily seductive novels that fascinate the reader with its implied horrors, a hint that beneath the tragedy of the two little girls are secrets too heinous to be addressed head-on. Camille is clearly conflicted, scribbling the little girlís names on her wrists, retreating to her room where long-suppressed memories resurface, bringing chills of recognition, guilt and despair.
Then there is thirteen-year-old Amma, a chameleon-like child who waxes sweet and violent without warning. Camille wants to be close to Amma, both attracted and repulsed by her half-sisterís behavior. Poor, emotionally battered Camille does not want to be here but conscientiously applies herself to what is soon a case of two dead girls, both bearing a gruesome common mutilation.
Not for the faint of heart, Flynn takes a tragic protagonist and plunges her into a nightmare of past and present, of unresolved issues and night terrors, her only defense to drink herself senseless. At one point, this dance on the dark side was hardly bearable for me, Flynn proving there is no safety from some things, even for the reader. This is an impressive, disturbing tale from a fearless writer.