Everybody’s looking for the next Gone Girl — publishers, who want to mimic the success of Gillian Flynn’s summer 2012 thriller that sold more than six million copies, and readers, who gobbled up every word (weak ending and all). No surprise, then, that publishers and industry-watchers have hyped any number of books as “the next Gone Girl.”
Random House is pitching The Weight of Blood, a March 2014 release by Laura McHugh, “for fans of Gillian Flynn.” The Wall Street Journal described the international bestseller The Dinner — a twisted tale from Dutch writer Herman Koch released in October — as “a European Gone Girl.” The Dinner’s cover includes a scrawled endorsement from Flynn herself: “chilling, nasty, smart, shocking, and unputdownable.” (The Dinner is excellent, but far darker and, frankly, not much like GG.)
The book that truly screams for comparison with (and may be even better than) GG is The Silent Wife by A. S. A. Harrison, a psychologically astute thriller that likewise involves a seemingly normal couple in a dicey relationship that takes a murderous turn. It was released last spring as a Penguin paperback (soon after Harrison passed away from cancer, sadly), with a cover line from writer Anne Lamott — who dubbed it, of course, “this summer’s Gone Girl.” The book has sold almost half a million copies in the United States; Nicole Kidman is slated to star in the movie adaptation.
Patrick Nolan, editor in chief at Penguin, tells us the company acquired the book a few months before GG’s release; when the editors read GG, “we immediately made that connection, then our sales reps started reading [The Silent Wife] and said, ‘I love this book, it’s like Gone Girl.’ ”
The obvious similarity was a huge boon for Penguin, Nolan says: “It’s almost shorthand, to be able to say, ‘If you like Gone Girl, you’re going to like The Silent Wife.’ ”
How hard did the folks at Penguin try to underline the comparison? Take The Silent Wife’s cover font: suspiciously similar, you’ll note, to GG’s. Was that a, uh, coincidence? “It was probably not super intentional,” says Nolan, “but yeah, we wanted to have our own distinct look without being off somewhere where no one was going to make a connection.”
If you’ve already devoured The Silent Wife, fret not: Publishers are eagerly promoting more sharply written tales of unfaithful and murderous upper-middle-class professionals. The next must-read — Apple Tree Yard, by British writer Louise Doughty — is due out January 14 from Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Set in London and telling the tale of a married middle-aged geneticist whose life begins to unravel after she falls for a mysterious stranger, it’s truly “unputdownable,” as Flynn might blurb. A reviewer in Library Journal dubbed it “a thinking person’s Gone Girl” [ouch!] “with a British flavor” (you know, tea-drinking and such).
Photo credits: Random House (Gone Girl); Penguin Books (The Silent Wife); Farrar, Straus and Giroux (Apple Tree Yard).