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If you can suspend your belief long enough to buy that Chicago’s fourth-largest newspaper would send its cub reporter to a small town eleven hours away to cover the grisly murders of two girls, than the rest of Gillian Flynn’s novel Sharp Objects is really easy.

Camille is a stoic toughie with a soft, forgiving touch when it comes to writing about crime. She works at a newspaper no one has heard of, which has a home base in suburban Chicago. She swills bourbon as wake-up juice, and is fresh from a stay at a ward. Camille is a nontraditional cutter who, in the past, carved words into her flesh. All but the small of her back is hacked into readable worm-like scars. Her mentor and editor Curry sends her fishing for a Pulitzer Prize in rural Missouri, a cheapo trip in terms of expense reports: These murders are happening in Camille’s hometown. She can stay at her mother’s house.

Of course, her mother is evil and manipulative. A rich bitch sort with a dullard husband to carry her purse, and another teenaged daughter: Camille’s half sister is a thirteen-year-old sexpot, all boobs and hair and lollipops and dollhouses — a real kitten at home; the queen of the junior high mean girls, smoking weed and seducing high school-aged drug dealers once she hops on her golf cart and passes over the property line.

Camille spends her days reporting, drinking, banging the big league investigator who has been sent to the town to investigate the case, and feeling the burn of the letters etched into her body. Her mom is cranked that Camille is writing about something so terrible; her sister pulls some adolescent mind meld that has Camille begging for approval from the witchy child.

It all unfolds pretty predictably, this melding of home life dysfunction and these wacky murders where the girls are found toothless and decorated with makeup.

I went into this read looking for something mediocre at best, something that was the equivalent of watching six straight hours of “CSI: Miami.” A brain vacation with something Stephen King called “An admirably nasty piece of work.” This book exceeded those expectations for sure. The writing is good, descriptive, without a hint of wimpiness. The characters are effed up in new and interesting ways that make sense. Remind me to tell you about the time that Camille falls into bed with a barely legal. But it stays true to the genre with its finale. I would say it is a higher breed of crime fiction.

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