That’s the seminal question in Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Told in duel narratives—Nick, the husband’s, and Amy’s, his missing wife—this story engages from the first page. Flynn deftly guides the reader to believe one thing—one set of facts, one version of events—then shatters those assumptions.
It’s a wonderful game of cat and mouse, played not only by the characters of the novel, but between the author and reader as well. Just as Amy’s killer has planted clues to distort the police investigation, Ms. Flynn uses tone, word choice, and irony to bias the reader.
Take for example the phrase “killer smile.” In the story, Nick’s knee-jerk reaction to stressful situations, to “remind people [he] wasn’t a dick”, is to smile. A boy with prom-king good looks, he had a dashing smile. But when he’s overwhelmed at a press conference following Amy’s disappearance and his “killer smile” surfaces, the words feel ominous.
Beyond being an engaging story, full of twists and turns, Gone Girl’s writing is excellent. Wit creeps up and has the reader laughing out loud, despite the bleak subject matter. The characters are both surprising and relatable, sympathetic and detestable, achieving a fullness that few characters do. Clever observations abound. The author describes things as banal as day-old danishes and as weighty as the suburban rot left in the wake of the Great Recession in ways that are fresh, truthful, and resounding.
So did Nick, a man who says on page one, that “you could imagine [his wife’s] skill quite easily”, kill Amy? Follow the flight of Gone Girl and find out.