Ashlie’s #CBR5 Review #37: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

This read for me has been a long time coming. Gone Girl was highly acclaimed when it came out, but it jumped up my “must read” list after hearing it so highly praised on my favorite podcast, Literary Disco.

How can I put this? This. Book. Is. Jacked. Uuuuuup. I love a mystery and a thriller, but it has been a while since a book has really gotten under my skin. I read it in two sittings because it is one of those gripping stories you just can’t put down. When I did put it down to get a snack and my phone rang, I about jumped out of my skin.

This book isn’t simply the story of a missing woman: it is a descent into calculating madness, a fractured marriage, and the darkness of humanity. Beyond that, it also shines a harsh light on the media’s role in missing persons cases, and our complicit participation as both the audience, and the story creators. With the 24 hour news cycle, the need to sensationalize and sustain that sort of frenzy leaves a lot of unanswered questions in its wake. The constant churning, and our desire for more more more creates the problem, and for those in the fray, it’s an avalanche of half truths.

The structure of the novel is fascinating, as the husband and wife tell their own stories, at different points in time. It creates an amazing level of suspense as you watch two people in their own words, become stretched past the breaking point: the ultimate “he said, she said.” It is really as good as everyone says it is, though I’m still unsure of the third act. But I can’t stop thinking about it, or suggesting it to other people, so that to me is the mark of a good read.

ElCicco #CBR5 Review #25: The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell

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The Other Typist is a fascinating new novel that fans of The Great Gatsby, Gone Girl and The Dinner will want to read.  The action takes place in 1925 New York, in a Lower East Side precinct where Rose Baker works as a typist. She and several other women have this new kind of work, taking confessions in shorthand and then transcribing them for the records. Rose is the fastest typist and a straight-laced, no-nonsense kind of girl in her early 20s. Having grown up in an orphanage, Rose has no family or friends to speak of and spends a lot of time in her own head. She greatly admires the old-fashioned, paternalistic sergeant whom she works alongside and places him on a pedestal. She is not overly friendly or familiar with her fellow typists and is especially cold toward the young lieutenant detective, who frequently tries to engage Rose in light conversation. Her life changes dramatically once the new typist arrives. Odalie stands out for her new fashion and fine jewelry, and later for her fashionably bobbed hair. She is a self-possessed, modern woman who is also blessed with beauty and charisma. She seems to mesmerize everyone around her. Rose is initially wary (and judgmental) of her, but they become friends and eventually roommates. Odalie introduces Rose to the modern world but something seems amiss. How does Odalie afford her apartment, clothes and decadent lifestyle? What is the truth about her past?

Rose serves as narrator and the question you ask throughout the narrative is do you trust her? Rose reminds me of the narrator in The Dinner. They both are narcissistic, condescending to those around them (who never seem to measure up to their standards), proudly holding ideas that are no longer popular, not seeing how they appear to others, assigning selfish and hostile motives to others. I found myself constantly wondering whether to believe her assessments of people and situations, whether any feelings of sympathy were misplaced. Is she mentally unstable? Is she an innocent victim of others who take advantage of her naivety? As the story unfolds, we see that Rose is telling her story in retrospect, as part of a therapy for her doctor, but where she is and why she is there is a mystery until the end.

First time author Rindell does a wonderful job of setting her story in historical context. She provides details of crime in 1920s — bootlegging, murder, the growing need for professionals to handle it, and the possibilities for corruption in the system. And there are plenty of details showing a changing society — young women becoming more independent but still vulnerable in so many ways, new fashions and opportunities to spend wealth. The Other Typist is an engrossing tale with a terrific ending. A good choice for those who are drawn to psychological thrillers.

narfna’s #CBR5 Review #31: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

8442457Gonna keep this short, since everybody and their mother’s first cousin twice removed has already reviewed this (and also because if I say too much, I’d be spoiling it, and this is a book whose enjoyment is predicated on not knowing what’s coming). I waited on my library’s hold list for almost six months for this book, and I have to say, I’m kind of disappointed.

On the morning of their fifth wedding anniversary, Amy Dunne disappears, leaving her husband Nick the prime suspect in her disappearance, soon to be considered murder. But that’s only the tip of the super fucked up iceberg. The story is told through the POVs of Nick and Amy, both in the present and in flashbacks, and both of them are highly unreliable narrators (understatement of the year). It’s a mystery of many layers. As the characters try to figure out what’s happened to Amy, we as readers have to also determine what (if anything) we can trust as correct info from Nick and Amy, or if there might be something missing from the narrative.

Honestly, in terms of technical achievement, this book probably deserves five stars. At the very least, four. Gillian Flynn’s brain is ridiculous. The way she structures her sentences, with cutting precision. The intricate plotting. The dense psychological character work. How both of those last two things dance around one another in ways both unexpected, yet strangely obvious after the fact (because it was the only way things could go, really). It’s kind of a masterpiece.

However — and this is a big however — it also made me want to stab myself in the eyeball from despair over how despicable the human race is. There’s nobody to root for here. So even if I might even say that this book has a perfect ending, an incredibly satisfying piece of closure to a wonderfully crafted book, I can also simultaneously say that it’s not really for me. I’m feeling a lot more generous with it right now than I did at the time, enough maybe even to up it to four stars, but I’m leaving it at three for now because I remember how awful I felt after finishing it.

If you understand this reference, we should probably be best friends.

Owlcat’s CBRV #7 review of Guilt by Jonathan Kellerman

First, I need to admit that I believe I have read all of Jonathan Kellerman’s Alex Delaware series and usually read them quickly and enjoy them, even those that are less than equal to his usual standards.  In some ways, his novels are my “fluff” reading, a ready escape into a world that is interesting with characters I’ve come to know well and who seldom deviate from my expectations.  Mysteries fascinate me, as does psychology, so these two being intermingled in all of the Alex Delaware series makes these books a good match for me.

Alex Delaware is a retired child psychologist who works as an occasional consultant with the LAPD, teaming up with a gay detective, Milo Sturgis, who has one of the highest case solves within the department and is therefore grudgingly given leeway within the department to approach difficult, and in particular, high profile crimes in a manner he deems necessary, which inevitably involves his calling in Alex Delaware.  In this novel, there are some added aspects to their relationship and to the overall story.

The banter between the two is low-keyed as usual but fun to read.  Alex’s comments to the reader about Milo add to the enjoyment of their relationship, which has nothing to do with Milo’s sexual preference, since Alex is married to a woman and Milo is partnered with an emergency room physician. What was interesting in this book’s relationship between the two was the fact that in the previous book, Alex had saved Milo’s life and they had yet to discuss the ramifications of that event, although Alex is clearly aware that it’s changed Milo’s attitude somewhat toward him and is hoping they can get the emotions and attitudes out into the open.  This does eventually happen, mostly on Milo’s terms, which means a terse appreciation and acceptance, and they’re able to move on, back into their usual realm of a Holmes-Watson-type relationship, more reminiscent these days of the camaraderie we see on TV shows like “Law & Order” or “CSI.”

The story begins with a 60-year old skeleton of an infant being discovered in a backyard of a home in LA.  This sets off a search for the why and how and who that were involved in burying this child there.  As an apparent result of the news around this, there suddenly is another infant skeleton, much more recent, as well as a missing nanny and a dead nanny and a dead male estate manager, all centered around the questionable lifestyle of a mega-star family who may or may not be the perpetrators. This story has a lot of characters who complicate the plot and slow it down a bit in the middle, all of whom are connected and whose relationships make sense at the end.  This story also reveals our presuppositions and biases about super stars and others, as Alex begins to make his own realizations in this area.  His characters, even the more eccentric ones, are interesting and believable, probably because they’re in LA and either directly or indirectly connected with “the industry” there.  There were a few characters earlier in the book who maybe could either have been eliminated from the story line or at least developed in less detail, as they, too, slowed down the plot and began to make it harder to remember who was who doing what.  By the same token, however, they also added more suspects into the mix and a good mystery should do that. Given that, there may have been too many suspects and stories within the story seemed to get a little muddled.

Overall, I was pleased with the book and enjoyed it for the reason I read it, rather like reading a favorite TV show.  I knew what to expect in terms of the characters, and I particularly enjoyed the heavier emphasis on his psychological approach to several of the characters, especially when he realized he had made presumptions before meeting the main suspect that were rapidly dismissed.  I also enjoyed his revelations around his own upbringing that had been alluded to in other books but which had more of an impact on the Alex character in this book because of the similarities he was assuming were there and the ones that actually were.

If you already like Jonathan Kellerman as an author, you will enjoy this book, I think.  If you haven’t read him before, you don’t need to have read the series but it might help if you do, just to clarify the development in his and Milo’s relationship: however, you can enjoy the “whodunit” aspect and the twists and turns of the plot, as well as the characters, both major and minor.

alwaysanswerb’s #CBR5 Review 01: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

blog-gone-girl-book-jacketAmazon summary: “On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer? 

As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?”

This book was fantastic. The pacing was spot-on, the plot fascinating and realistic (well, maybe not the actual plot, but at least the reactions to the way it unfolds,) and the characters are… well, they are something to behold. I really want to avoid spoiling it, so I’m going to put the rest of this review behind a cut. I’m still not going to include any obvious spoilers, but I will be talking about the characters in a way that requires having read the whole book to come to the conclusions I did — so. Click through at your own risk!

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