Nick Dunne wakes with a start on the morning of his fifth wedding anniversary, and descends to the kitchen of his rented McMansion to find his wife, the now grown “Amazing Amy” of a children’s book series, making crepes. The homey scene fills him with dread. Later that day, Amy turns up missing. Suspicion falls on Nick, whose first person narration omits key elements of the truth. The book’s chapters then alternate between Nick’s retelling of the events after Amy’s disappearance and Amy’s diary entries relating events up until her disappearance.
This blockbuster's dirty little secret is that it is actually a literary novel, a novel that works on many levels. Not only as a murder mystery, but also as a comedy, a commentary on the current state of American womanhood, a sociological comparison of urban and rural and a dissection of the institution of marriage. The story wastes no time getting started – the girl is gone within twenty-four pages. Quickly the reader realizes this couple is tragically mismatched. In addition, both Amy and Nick seem to be missing some basic human responses. Ingeniously, the stakes are raised, assisted by various well delineated characters, characters who also serve as plot mechanisms.
Amy is a great creation, entertainingly cold and very funny. The Amazing Amy books ended each chapter on a quiz. So Amy inserts the quizzes into her diary. The couple has an anniversary tradition – she hides clues all over town and it’s Nick’s job to figure them out. The clues are clever, murderous, like something out of Cosmopolitan. The ultimate question is what do women want? (Men apparently want to be left alone.) The prose is consistently entertaining and Flynn is a master of showing not telling. Near the end, however, an essential plot twist feels not quite motivated, a little too out of character. This book would certainly bear a rereading. It’s all about staying together for the sake of the children.