Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s acclaimed 2012 novel, follows the story of Nick and Amy Dunne, two laid-off magazine writers who are forced to move back to Nick’s Missouri hometown when their money (and the health of Nick’s parents) starts to dwindle. On the day of their fifth wedding anniversary, Nick gets a call while at work from a neighbour about his suspiciously open front door and returns home to find Amy missing, living room furniture upturned. As the disappearance becomes public knowledge – and Nick becomes the prime suspect – suspicious characters from Amy’s past start to emerge. But Amy’s ‘treasure hunt’ – a traditional trail of clues left to lead Nick to his anniversary gift – incriminates Nick at every location, making police (and the public) wary of his supposed innocence. As evidence deepens the case against him and suspicions rise, Nick and everyone in the small Mississippi River town are left to wonder – what really happened to Amy?
The novel is told from two sides: Nick’s, set in real time, and Amy’s, or, in the case of the first section, Amy’s diary. The alternating voice provides insight into both characters and their situations, making it impossible for the reader not to hate Nick (initially) and love Amy (initially). As the plot thickens, this flip-flops and criss-crosses, twists and turns of the dialogue making it difficult to root for one single character. Painting an accurate picture of a real-life small town crime case, Flynn does well in character description through the voices of Nick and Amy, and it is easy to feel for them (or against them).
The most stunning aspect of Gone Girl is Flynn’s deep understanding of the story: she’s done her research. It’s not a shallow, basic crime fiction, but a chilling, I-can-see-that-happening tale awash with psychological undertones, emotional grievances, a breakdown of a marriage, disappointment, heartache, revenge, acceptance. It’s more than a simple whodunit, but a mystery for crime fans to really sink into: characters to feel real emotion for, a thrilling and twisted plotline, and a dissection of a case you wouldn’t believe if it was splashed across the front page of the Metro.
One, and only one, hang up about the novel is the ending. According to Goodreads and many book blogs, this is a point of contention with many readers of Gone Girl: you either love it entirely or hate it completely. The issue is that it’s very open-ended; not in the ‘there will be a sequel’ way, but in a ‘that’s just…it’ kind of way, that can be frustrating and unfulfilling. Flynn has said that she wrote the ending because it was the perfect fit for her characters – and upon reading, that’s true, but it doesn’t stop it from being a bit disappointing.
Gone Girl is the ultimate read for crime fiction and true crime fans alike – intense, unbelievable, and unnerving to the core. A film adaptation, set to be produced by Reese Witherspoon and directed by David Fincher, is currently in development.