In Gillian Flynn’s action packed thriller “Gone Girl”, Nick Dunne is an unemployed writer who comes home one day to find that his wife Amy Elliott Dunne has disappeared. This draws the attention of the national press because Amy’s childhood was chronicled in the pages of a best selling series of books which her parents wrote. That they have made both her parents and Amy rich only adds to the intrigue and swirling conspiracy in this who-dun-it.
The story unfolds from two points of view with the wife’s diary entries presented opposite the husband’s narrative. The readers interest continues as, coupled with the police investigation, we have clues written as puzzles left behind by the wife. These written clues are a tradition between the couple.
Nick was a magazine writer in New York until the Internet drove magazines out of business including his. So when his sister calls from Missourri saying that their mother is dying he picks up with his New York wife and heads for the gray skies and dreary landscape of the Mississippi River.
The novel unfolds like a movie scrip–much like Graham Greene’s “The Tenth Man” unfolds as a movie script–meaning it is obviously written with the big screen in mind. (In fact the movie contract was just awarded. Reese Witherspoon will star.) Yet the book is also a chronicle of what is happening to the moral fiber of America as a result of the Great Recession. So it is similar in that vein to John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath” where he wrote about the unraveling of the culture due to the Great Depression.
Nick and Anne move into a neighborhood of foreclosed houses where every other McMansion is overrun with unmoved grass. The neighborhood shopping mall is boarded up and taken over by displaced persons. They are pushed into the misery and hostility one encounters when they have to live in proximity to criminals and other desperate peoples. Other drifters live in a cash only motels where they rob others to pay the rent and feed themselves. That Nick and his sister invest Anne’s dwindling trust funds into a bar only adds to the sense that America has fallen apart and taken to drink.
The book also takes pot shots at the state of broadcast news, TV commentary, and gossip TV shows. This of course contrasts with the magazine world where Nick worked, when one actually had time to reason what they were going to say before they blurt it out unedited on live TV. In the freewheeling world of television, facts are not checked and journalistic standards have sunk.
Since this is a high profile crime story of course we have the ubiquitous high flying attorney who jets in, bright purple tie, outsized personality and all. He tells Nick and his family that the facts do not matter as he ramps up the public relations campaign. Public opinion is 80% of the case when hearsay, speculation, and leaked tips from the police are spread via the internet in the 24×7 news cycle. Once the case is presented to the court the issue has largely been decided. There is no more changing venue to avoid a tainted jury.
This book is a good read with literary merit. Sort of like a John Grisham novel albeit written by someone for whom reading and writing are taken seriously.