Gone Girl: The Most Interesting Parts are Spoilers (But I'll try to find something to write about anyway)
In my apparent theme of reading mainstream mysteries/thrillers with "Girl" in the title, my first book of 2015 is Gone Girl. I'd heard it mentioned several times over the past couple years, and especially now that there's a movie of it. So, with no preface or even an Amazon summary to pique my interest, I started reading.
At first, I wasn't wowed. It seemed like a Law and Order SVU episode, only with a less interesting concept and with more irritating writing. On the day of her fifth anniversary with her husband (Lance Nicholas "Nick" Dunne), Amy Elliott Dunne goes missing from her home with signs of a struggle in the living room. Nick is devastated—but maybe for the wrong reasons. Throughout the first third of the book, we rack up suspects, all the while delving deeper into Nick's persona (oddly uncaring, distant, serial-killer smile) and getting a sense of the woman who was Amy through snippets of her diary.
"I think it's fair to say I am a writer. I'm using this journal to get better: to hone my skills, to collect details and observations. To show don't tell and all that other writery crap. (Adopted-orphan smile, I mean, that's not bad, come on.)" (10)
At this point, only ten pages in, I began to find the style grating. And Amy, too, for that matter. Amy is the daughter of a pair of writer psychologists who based their successful children's books, the Amazing Amy series, off of the foibles of their own growing daughter. Because of this, Amy has always had very big shoes to fill. Poor Amy! Early in the novel, I liked Nick and had little sympathy for ditzy, quiz-writing Diary Amy and her wifely worries.
But that's what's kind of beautiful about Gone Girl. As the first part of the book continues, you quickly realize that Nick is not everything he seems and that Amy (doting, loving Amy) is trying her hardest to be the good wife and bring Nick back to her after their marriage has deteriorated over the years. And with Amy now mysteriously gone, Nick has realized her worth all too late.
Here, I try to restrain myself from adding a rousing, "But wait, there's more!"
Because as soon as you think you have their relationship figured out, you realize that Amy and Nick are not quite Dunne. (Har har; this pun occurs a handful of times throughout the book. Hilarious, right?) Nick may be a little stiff, but is he a bad guy? And Amy's definitely gone, but is she a stiff? (Okay, sorry, no more puns. Promise.)
The problems I had with the book were few. I thought that at times, the detailing of character backstories seemed to slow the progress of the mystery, but after I realized how essential the characters' personalities and histories were to the story (and how little this book resembles your typical mystery), I could understand why the novel is written as it is. As noted previously, I occasionally found the writing style irritating, but I can excuse those sorts of things in a first-person story.
I think the biggest issue I had was that there were moments (though rare) that I found the characters (or their actions/dialogue) a bit unbelievable. Characters would periodically do something that didn't fit their profile at all (no matter what you knew or didn't know about them at that point). And sometimes, I could so clearly see the dialogue as an episode of Criminal Minds that it made me wonder how this book was supposed to be packaged. A clever and literary psychological novel? A battered-wife mystery? An edge-of-your-seat thriller? A Spy vs. Spy comic? At its worst parts, Gone Girl was a touch confused. Rather long and somewhat confused.
All in all, though, I found the book a really excellent reading experience. As the title indicates, it's tough to discuss this book without revealing anything more about the various twists and turns it takes, and to be totally fair, I don't think mentioning any revelations even ruins the enjoyment of the story. But to err on the side of remaining spoiler-free, I'll simply say that the various shifting character dynamics throughout the book as Nick discovers the secrets of Amy's past and disappearance are compelling enough to keep you reading until the bitter end.
OVERALL RATING (within genre): 4/5 Stars
TL;DR: Less a mystery and more a psychological thriller that details the very compelling dynamic between a perfectly complementary husband and wife, Gone Girl drags a bit in places, but will keep you springing from side to side and wondering which way the story will swivel.