BOOK REVIEW: 'Gone Girl': Nick and Amy Dunne, Folie å Deux in a Mississippi River Town

Reviewed by David M. Kinchen
BOOK REVIEW: 'Gone Girl': Nick and Amy Dunne, Folie å Deux in a Mississippi River Town

It may eventually be replaced by "Fifty Shades of Grey" or another novel, but Gillian Flynn's "Gone Girl" (Crown Publishers, 432 pages, $25.00) -- published in early June -- is still at the top of the New York Times' Fiction Bestseller list -- and it deserves to be there.

The French have a phrase for Nick Dunne and his wife of five years, Amy Elliott Dunne: "folie å deux" -- "the sharing of delusional ideas by two who are closely associated", according to my Random House Webster's college dictionary. If I were a cynic, I'd say that applies to almost all marriages. In the case of "Amazing Amy" Elliott Dunne, the move from a "we've got everything" in a picture-perfect Brooklyn neighborhood to living in a rented McMansion in a failing subdivision in North Carthage, Missouri, triggers the inner psycho in Amy.

The "Amazing Amy" moniker comes from a series of bestselling books written by her father and mother, who've created a character that's impossible to live up to, Having two shrinks as parents might not be such a good idea -- as if we have any choice in the matter.

Nick, four years younger than the 38-year-old Amy, loses his dream job on a magazine undergoing a downsizing, so he decides to move back to his hometown on the Mississippi River between St. Louis and Hannibal (there is a Carthage in Missouri, but it's near Joplin, not on the Mississippi) and open a bar with his twin sister Margo, called "Go" by everybody.The bar is called "The Bar" -- a touch of big city irony in a small city. North Carthage is suffering mightily from the ongoing recession, with a major shopping mall shuttered and a printing plant out of business, a victim of technology. The plant produced the Blue Books that many college graduates remember with fondness -- or not!

Nick and Amy really don't have any choice: The house they thought they owned free and clear in an upscale Brooklyn neighborhood was mortgaged to the max by Amy's parents, who've also borrowed just about everything from her sizable trust fund. The house is in foreclosure because the feckless authors haven't kept up the payments. After years of financial success with the "Amazing Amy" series, nobody wants to read the books any more.

Gillian Flynn
Gillian Flynn

In a plot that seems ripped from the headlines -- think Drew Peterson in Chicago -- Amy disappears from the house on the fifth anniversary of their marriage. As is customary in cases where the wife disappears, the husband is the first suspect, especially since a neighbor heard Nick and Amy arguing loudly enough to be heard down the street.

I don't want to give away the plot of this taut psychological thriller, but it features well drawn characters, with plenty of clues left by Amy, who's a fan of treasure hunts. The police officers investigating Amy's disappearance are particularly well written, based on my experience dealing with cops over several decades of newspaper journalism.

Nick shows little emotion to townspeople and the cops, leading them to wonder if he's killed Amy or if she decided she's had enough Midwestern niceness and longs for her hometown. She grew up in luxury on the upper East Side of Manhattan, went to a private boarding school in New England and is showing signs of being restless in her marriage.

Nick doesn't hide his bitterness at Amy's disappearance, but is he a killer? Read this outstanding thriller and be prepared for a number of surprises.

About the author (from her website)

Gillian Flynn was born in Kansas City, Missouri to two community-college professors—her mother taught reading; her father, film. Thus she spent an inordinate amount of her youth nosing through books and watching movies. She has happy memories of having A Wrinkle in Time pried from her hands at the dinner table, and also of seeing Alien, Psycho and Bonnie and Clyde at a questionable age (like, seven). It was a good childhood.

For college, she headed to the University of Kansas, where she received her undergraduate degrees in English and journalism.

After a two-year stint writing about human resources for a trade magazine in California, Flynn moved to Chicago. There she earned her master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and discovered that she was way too wimpy to make it as a crime reporter.

On the other hand, she was a movie geek with a journalism degree—so she moved to New York City and joined Entertainment Weekly magazine, where she wrote happily for 10 years, visiting film sets around the world (to New Zealand for The Lord of the Rings, to Prague for The Brothers Grimm, to somewhere off the highway in Florida for Jackass: The Movie). During her last four years at EW, Flynn was the TV critic (all-time best TV show: The Wire).

Flynn’s 2006 debut novel, the literary mystery "Sharp Objects", was an Edgar Award finalist and the winner of two of Britain’s Dagger Awards—the first book ever to win multiple Daggers in one year. Movie rights have been sold.

Flynn’s second novel, the 2009 New York Times bestseller Dark Places, was a New Yorker Reviewers’ Favorite, Weekend TODAY Top Summer Read,Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2009, and Chicago Tribune Favorite Fiction choice. Movie rights have been sold, with Gilles Paquet-Brenner (Sarah’s Key) to direct. Movie rights for "Gone Girl" have been sold to Reese Witherspoon.

Flynn’s work has been published in twenty-eight countries. She lives in Chicago with her husband, Brett Nolan, their son, and a giant black cat named Roy. In theory she is working on her next novel. In reality she is possibly playing Ms. Pac-Man in her basement lair.

Gillian Flynn's website:

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