Having stated the author's obvious positive quaities and together with the realization that Sharp Objects is not recognized as her best work, the vessel of Sharp Objectsis only kept from complete failure by Flynn’s masterful writing. Imagine a story without a single sympathetic character, where all of the actors dislike each other, intensely, and where the principal is a distressingly pathetic and self-pitting alcoholic lacking a single redeeming attribute. The plot (to be discussed later) is rather awkwardly woven in and out of a psychological sketch representing a horribly disturbed family. Maybe Dostoyevsky could have kept this tragedy from rolling into farce, but Flynn either lacks the depth or refused to dive deep enough to save it.
You may purchase the book thinking that you are getting a mystery. This is not a mystery story. If it were nearly all the following criticisms could be forgiven. This is a story of a sick family (the Preaker’s), locked in a piteous, destructive psychotic embrace. The mystery, such as it is, acts only to frame the melodrama – and is more farce than tragic. The mystery plot is a bit awkward and somewhat hackneyed: A struggling reporter (Camille Preaker) goes to hometown to cover the murders of several children, who have their teeth removed to gin up the insane angle. As the real plot concerning Camille’s lunatic family, takes over, these murders only pop up now and again to remind the reader that the the book is supposed to be about serial murder. Camille Preaker, our schizophrenic and self-mutilating reporter (she's a cutter), spends nearly all of her time driving around boozie and drinking vodka from a bottle and lamenting her disassociated relationship with her nutty mom and sister – and a sister who is dead.
The solution to the serial murders comes in the last few pages. It is supposed to be a surprise ending so I won’t give it away except to say that through a process of elimination you’ll know the bad guy(s) about halfway through the book. After you suspect the source of the villainy, the balance of the “mystery,” in spite of the good writing, you must drag yourself through.
While reading, I often gritted my teeth wishing that this talented writer had either written a mystery or a psychological drama instead of this jumbled concoction where each, the mystery and the emotional drama, threatened, in turn, to overwhelm the other, leaving neither satisfied.
At the end of the day I feel certain that readers with a keen interest in psychological drama will be just fine with Sharp Objects and will find the mystery an annoying interruption.At this point, and before I render any final judgment, I feel obliged to move on to Gone Girl, Flynn’s much acclaimed work. Perhaps here, the plot may be more balanced.