I love Gillian Flynn! Doesn’t everyone love Gillian Flynn?
(Real answer: No. My mum does not love Gillian Flynn. I recommended Gone Girl to my mum and she now refers to it as “that weird book you made me read”. Sad times.)
However, for everyone – my mum excepted – who has enjoyed immersing themselves in Flynn’s darkly-twisted, fiercely-intelligent (not to mention defiantly female-centric) novels, here’s my list of other books you should read:
If you heard about Fifty Shades of Grey and thought it sounded like a great premise for a horror movie, this one’s for you. In The Engagement, Chloe Hooper plays a deft sleight of hand, setting up a romance novel – heroine Liese goes on a dirty weekend with aristocratic farmer Alexander – and then delivering a chilling psychological thriller. Rich in mood and emotion, it’s a story that also teases out a fascinating discussion of female sexuality.
Pregnant and (mostly) alone in a strange city, protagonist Jane becomes obsessed with her teenage neighbour, The Girl On the Stairs, who she suspects of being abused. Stairs is an atmospheric, well-plotted thriller that hits all the right beats of classic crime fiction, but breaks the mould just enough to feel fresh.
In the Cut manages to simultaneously act as a sexy-dark mood piece, an interesting spin on the classic detective novel, AND a meditation on modern relationships. Is protagonist Franny really being targeted by a killer, or is she just paranoid? Her worries – about being followed, about being attacked – bear the brittle rattle of everyday thoughts for a city-dwelling woman. Susanna Moore evokes and then magnifies the uneasy sensation of being unsafe behind heavy locks on your front door.
Nice defined “chick noir” for me, before I even knew the term existed. It takes a typical rom-com set up – over-bright, under-stimulated New Yorker heroine meets a rich and cultured older man – and throws in an unusual meeting-of-minds. He’s a hit man; she kills her boyfriends to avoid breaking up with them. Deliciously dark, but with a loving eye for detail and humour.
You is a subverted meet-cute, which sees Joe meet Beck in a New York bookstore… except, he’s a stalker-psychopath and she’s far from your average rom-com heroine. Here, Caroline Kepnes shares Gillian Flynn’s greatest strength: her take-no-prisoners narrative style. Kepnes skewers self-ordained Nice Guys and wafty MFA students. She skewers the obsessive self-documentation that accompanies life on social media. She skewers the New York City girls who love to rant about how much they hate Girls, all the while living the plot of Girls. The vitriol drips off You, and I lapped up every drop of it.
Little Star may be, nominally, about a washed-up Swedish pop singer who finds a baby abandoned in the woods and decides to raise her away from outside influences. But its narrative takes a number of surprising twists, touching upon reality TV singing competitions, internet trolling and, of course, murder. Wildly off-kilter and macabrely funny, this is – to put it mildly – not your average murder novel.
What Gillian-Flynn-esque books have you enjoyed recently?