From time to time books come along which, it seems, everyone is talking about. Think Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, Fifty Shades of Grey or Wool – books which spread by word of mouth and have continued to sell long after the media stopped featuring them. These books come up in every genre but, it seems, more turn up in the crime/thriller section than elsewhere. Recently we’ve had Kolymsky Heights, Girl on the Train and Gone Girl and it is this last one which, so far, has had the most success (both as a book and film). My relationship towards these word-of-mouth bestsellers is a bit mixed – I loved Wool, quite enjoyed Captain Corelli but hated the ending and still haven’t read any E. L. James – but I did thoroughly enjoy Gone Girl.
The Grownup is the latest from Gillian Flynn – it is only a short story but it certainly packs a punch which many a 600 page blockbuster would give their best review for. The main character is a young woman working as a psychic after having to give up her career as a sex worker due to repetitive strain injury – she is a grifter and a charlatan but, on the positive side, she loves to read. It turns out being a fake psychic isn’t much different from being a successful beggar: you earn money by telling people what they want to hear. And the story really gets going when she meets a client who wants her to, effectively, exorcise an evil spirit from her elegant town house which also appears to be influencing her 15-year-old stepson.
Like Gone Girl The Grownup has a tendency to start by leading you down one narrative pathway and then, abruptly, switching tracks on you. And even if you are fairly sure that it is going to happen you just don’t see it coming. Flynn also seems to specialise in unsympathetic female characters (although, to be honest, in this story nobody comes out looking good) which I quite enjoy. Lets face it, if we want equality with men it should be in all things – wages, opportunities and the chance to be twisted and evil. This book comes out a little after Hallowe’en but that’s okay – it is more about human psychology than the supernatural – but would be a perfect read for a dark and stormy night.