Gillian Flynn is riding the zeitgeist right now, isn’t she? Gone Girl was a bona fide sensation last year and both that and her debut novel are proving popular on this year’s Cannonball Read. If my searching skills are up to scratch, I think I’m the first person to review her second book. I very much doubt I will be the last.
When Libby Day was seven years old, she hid while her fifteen year old brother Ben slaughtered their mother and two sisters. Her testimony put Ben in prison for life. Almost twenty five years later, Libby is every bit as maladjusted as you would expect her to be, drifting through life, surviving on a trust fund of donations from well wishers. It tells you all you need to know about her that she resents any new young murder victim for pulling the focus from her and her dwindling funds.
The Kill Club are a weird little underground group of misfits who reach out to Libby to be a guest speaker at their next meeting. Tempted by the money, Libby meets them, only to discover they don’t believe Ben killed anyone, they don’t believe her testimony and they all have their theories as to who really offed the Days. Libby gets drawn in, but mainly for financial reasons. And then, of course, chaos ensues.
This is a tougher book to get hooked into than either of Flynn’s others and there are two reasons for that. The first is that Libby Day is massively unpleasant, so much so it’s impossible to like her for about the first third of the book. The second reason is the structure. It flits between first person present day chapters of Libby and third person chapters of either Ben or the Day matriarch in the lead up to the murderous night. It only bothered me since it removed any doubt that Ben was guilty and thus any sense of tension in that regard.
Once it hits its stride though, it grips like a vice. Flynn writes with such urgency that you can’t help but keep reading. She has also mastered the art of the cliffhanger chapter ending. There were at least three occasions where I exclaimed something profane as the chapter drew to a close. Unfortunately, the denouement you’re racing towards is one that doesn’t quite tick all the boxes. It clips the bullseye, rather than going dead centre. It’s not enough of a fumble to be truly labeled “disappointing” and the journey to get there has been an intense read, so you forgive it. But it’s still like buying a latte and finding out on the first mouthful they gave you decaff by mistake.