A savage debut thriller that renders the Electra complex electric, the mother/daughter bond a psychopathic stranglehold.
Camille Preaker is a cutter. At 13, she carved “queasy” above her navel, at 29, “vanish” on her neck. In the intervening years, she etched her entire epidermis from the chin down with cries for help. Entertainment Weekly TV critic Flynn discloses this information 60 pages into her explosive novel; before that, we know Camille as a hard-drinking, good-looking Jimmy Breslin wannabe, sent by a second-tier paper to cover two gruesome killings in her Missouri hometown. Nine-year-old Natalie’s corpse was found jammed between the Cut-n-Curl Beauty Parlor and Bifty’s Hardware nine months after another’s girl’s body was dumped in a creek. The murderer’s grisly signature? Both strangled corpses had their teeth yanked out. As she snoops around, Camille gets hot for a cute detective and anxious in her mother’s house. Haunted by the ghost of her sister, a child felled by mysterious illness, Camille warily befriends half-sister Amma, a snaky Lolita with precociously developed smarts and breasts. Bite-sized Queen of Mean who rules the town’s teens, Amma joins Camille in shuddering at their mother, Aurora, an oh-so-proper virago who pulls down a million dollars a year running a pig slaughterhouse. Mommie Dearest is afflicted with an outré psychological disturbance: She inflicts illness on her loved ones to then prove her sweetness by nursing them. Could she be the slayer? Or perhaps an even more hideous revelation awaits? Flynn delivers a great whodunit, replete with hinting details, telling dialogue, dissembling clues. Better yet, she offers appalling, heartbreaking insight into the darkness of her women’s lives: the Stepford polish of desperate housewives, the backstabbing viciousness of drug-gobbling, sex-for-favors Mean Girls, the simmering rage bound to boil over.
Piercingly effective and genuinely terrifying.