The novel opens as Nick – "I used to be a writer… back when people read things on paper, back when anyone cared about what I thought" – finds that Amy has gone missing on the day of their fifth wedding anniversary. Their front door is open, the coffee table shattered, books scattered, and Amy, a trust fund New Yorker who has been miserable since Nick dragged her to his Missouri home town to care for his dying mother, is gone.
Gone Girl switches between Nick's narrative, as the hunt for the beautiful, blond Amy consumes the attention of America's media, and Amy's diary, as she writes about the early days of their relationship. "Tra and la! I am smiling a big adopted-orphan smile as I write this… I met a boy!" she says. And then later: "He promised to take care of me, and yet I feel afraid."
Gradually the two stories begin to converge. The pointed finger of media – and police – blame starts to swing Nick's way, and he doesn't endear himself to his readers as a hint of misogyny enters his tone. Women have "girl brain[s]" and female scents, "vaginal and strangely lewd". He lies to the police: little lies that don't really matter, but why is he doing it? And there's something odd about Amy's diary too; her version of the events of their past is different from Nick's, fails to ring quite true, grates in its perfection. We begin to see flashes of the darkness which lies in the cracks of this seemingly perfect marriage: where is Amy, and who is telling the truth?
Flynn, an extraordinarily good writer, plays her readers with the finesse and delicacy of an expert angler. She wields her unreliable narrators – and just who are they? – to stunning effect, baffling, disturbing and delighting in turn, practically guaranteeing an immediate reread once her terrifying, wonderful conclusion is reached. This American author shook up the thriller scene in 2007 with her debut Sharp Objects, nasty and utterly memorable. Gone Girl, her third novel, is even better – an early contender for thriller of the year and an absolute must read.