I have a new favorite author — Gillian Flynn. I’d read “Gone Girl” because it was getting so much attention in so many places. “Gone Girl” was good — very well written with some wonderful plot twists. I put her other two books on my wish list on Amazon, and for my birthday, HighGuy bought them for me. I was a little surprised that he didn’t buy the Kindle version of them, but that’s OK. With the dead-tree version, I can loan them out easier.

I read “Sharp Objects” while on vacation. Not quite your easy-reading-on-the-beach book. Camille works for a second-rate newspaper and has been charged with getting the story on two girls who were murdered in her hometown. That means she will have to face her toxic mother, her equally-messed-up half-sister, and her pale stepfather.

Camille has taken cutting to a different level. Instead of just cutting herself to ease the pain, she carves words into her skin. “Wicked” above her hipbone, “whore” on her ankle, the only place she hasn’t scarred is the middle of her back. Her much-younger half-sister is a baby in her mother’s presence, and a Queen Bee in the presence of her small circle of friends.

The two girls who were killed weren’t totally innocent either. They had each made a name for themselves as destructive brats. But is that the reason they were killed and left without any teeth? The FBI agent on the job presses Camille to tell him about the small town where she grew up. Their working theory is that the murderer was a passing stranger, or perhaps someone from the small town. Not much of a theory, so Camille does her best to tell the town’s secrets.

“Dark Places” is an equally taut thriller. The story is told from the viewpoint of Libby, Ben and Patty Day. In January 1985,someone killed Patty Day and her two daughters, Michelle and Debby. Libby, the youngest daughter, escapes the murderer and is one of those testifying at the trial. Ben is convicted of the murders and is serving a life sentence.

Ben, the oldest child, was in the middle of his own crises at the time – his girlfriend was pregnant and he was being accused of molesting young girls. The children’s father, Runner Day, is an alcoholic and already divorced from Patty when the murder happens. He’s also a gambler, and only turns up to ask Patty for money.

After the murders, Libby lives with her aunt Diane for a while and then is bounced around to foster homes. She’s a messed up character — she’s never held a job, and lives off donations to a fund after she writes a book about her family. But now she meets a group of people who investigate murders and want to make hers their latest case. Although Ben was convicted, partly on the basis of Libby’s coached testimony, they don’t believe Ben is guilty.

Over the past 20 years, Libby has never contacted Ben or her father. Now the Kill Club is willing to pay her to interview them and get to the bottom of the murders. We find out what an ineffective mother Patty is, and what a creep Runner is, and how sympathetic a character Ben is.

Libby has been marked by the loss of her family. Who wouldn’t be? But will she be brave enough to find out who really killed her family?