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Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Who Dunne It?

Infidelity. Suspicion. Murder? With each turn of the page Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl builds in intrigue and suspense, compelling its readers onward in the search for the truth of its crimes. Gone Girl joins the ranks of films noir such as Double Indemnity and The Strange Love of Martha Ivers in a unique way as a novel. The strength of Flynn’s writing lies in her ability of gradual revelation through a first person narrative, causing you to ask more questions than will be answered; until the end, that is, when she gives you the satisfaction you need, but leaves you with an ambiguity that captivates.

In typical noir fashion, the story begins with a sorry bloke of a man; Flynn has named hers Nick Dunne. Nick and his wife, Amy, are trapped in an unhappy marriage, and both are recently unemployed. After learning that his mother is ill, Nick drags a reluctant Amy from Brooklyn to his small Missouri hometown to care for her. Nick settles back into the sleepy town quickly, borrowing money from his wealthy wife to open a bar with his twin sister, and teaching writing courses at a local junior college. Amy does not have the same success. The once charming woman becomes secluded and irritable. They fall more out of love each day. But on Nick and Amy’s fifth wedding anniversary, trouble strikes. Nick arrives home from work to discover their house in shambles. It appears as though Amy has been taken—or worse. As the highly publicized investigation progresses, speculation grows as to who, in this impoverished, recession stricken town, might be responsible for her disappearance. Soon a cloud of suspicion envelops Nick. He has lost the good faith of the country, the town, his in-laws, even his sister. But is he guilty?

Flynn’s writing techniques are instrumental in arousing suspicion. The chapters alternate between the first person voice of Nick in the days leading away from the kidnapping, and Amy’s diary entries from the past two years. Secrets about their relationship, their character and the true nature of events are revealed gradually, increasing in frequency and weightiness as time passes.

Just as the chapters switch from chapter to chapter, so does the empathy and trust of the reader. You ask, “who did it?’, but under that lies a more pressing, “who should I trust?” Voices morph from charming to sinister with the utterance of a single phrase. When Nick admits that “It was my fifth lie to the police. I was just starting,” the reader is left gaping, wondering what the other four could have been, and what new ones lie ahead. Nick’s first person account comes across as candid, but even with everything he confesses the reader instead has to ask “what else aren’t you telling me?”

As you wonder who the guilty party is, you wonder even more who the true victim is. Who was it that made their marriage miserable? What is the true nature of Amy and her ex-lovers’ relationships? And who is at the other end of Nick’s disposable phone? Nick and Amy battle for your empathy until the bitter end. Your desires for outcome become convoluted and uncertain. Over the course of a few short chapters you can want Nick to not have done it and get off, to have done it and not get off, and even to have done it and get off. It is simultaneously exhausting and exhilarating, which apparently is possible.

While the noir novel is a fun read, it should be noted that, unlike the films noir of the 40s which were censored and subliminal, Gone Girl is openly crude and sexual at times. The passions of lust and murderous crimes go hand in hand, as they so often do, and anything less from these depraved and smutty souls would be out of their character.

So, if you are in want of a thrilling and easy read, look no further than right here. Flynn has built a masterful rollercoaster worthy of its best-seller status.