Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
Published by Shaye Areheart Books on January 1st 2009
Genres: Mystery & Thriller, Adult, Death & Dying
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FROM THE #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR OFGONE GIRL
Libby Day was seven when her mother and two sisters were murdered in “The Satan Sacrifice” of Kinnakee, Kansas.” She survived—and famously testified that her fifteen-year-old brother, Ben, was the killer. Twenty-five years later, the Kill Club—a secret secret society obsessed with notorious crimes—locates Libby and pumps her for details. They hope to discover proof that may free Ben. Libby hopes to turn a profit off her tragic history: She’ll reconnect with the players from that night and report her findings to the club—for a fee. As Libby’s search takes her from shabby Missouri strip clubs to abandoned Oklahoma tourist towns, the unimaginable truth emerges, and Libby finds herself right back where she started—on the run from a killer.
This book was insaaaaane. But so so good. Dark Places was my first Gillian Flynn book (though I have seen the Gone Girl movie) but I fully plan on picking up all her other books now.
It’s the kind of novel that makes you question what on earth we humans can come up with. I kept wondering what was going on in Gillian Flynn’s head. How does she think of these things?
Dark Places is vile, macabre and gruesome. The author doesn’t hold back, instead she seemingly bombards you with everything ugly out there. Vivid descriptions of bloody crime scenes, physical and psychological horrors, the most unlikable characters you can imagine. She gives us a glimpse into the mind-set of some truly twisted and messed up people who all carry around their own little dirty secrets.
The truly frightening flaw in humanity is our capacity for cruelty – we all have it.
But with the book’s superb writing style and strong narrative, it all somehow works. The story kept me engaged all the way through and I found myself constantly thinking of the book when I wasn’t reading, wondering who the culprit was.
The story is told from three different POVs: From Libby Day in the present and from Ben and Patty Day in 1985. It was a day in the year of 1985 when Ben – Libby’s older brother – allegedly murdered three members of his own family – including his mother, Patty, and two of his younger sisters – in cold blood. Only Libby somehow escaped the massacre. Libby’s testimony against Ben condemns him to a lifelong imprisonment. Now, after having lived off donations her entire life, Libby’s finances run out and she has to find a new way to earn enough money to survive. In an attempt to get the money without having to work, Libby makes an appearance at the “Kill Club”, a secret society obsessed with solving crimes. She soon realizes however, that everyone in the club believes Ben innocent and her testimony to be false. At first, she dismisses these theories as fanatical talk, but as more and more information is presented to her, Libby realizes that maybe things aren’t as simple as she thought them to be.
Dark Places is not a book I would necessarily call “enjoyable”. At times it is frightening and difficult to read: the author drags you into the story with the intrigue of the killings while simultaneously pushing you away with her deeply flawed characters. While reading I actually developed some scarily aggressive thoughts towards certain (most) characters. At times I got so angry I wanted to jump into the book and strangle them with my bare hands. Punch them in the face. Scratch out their eyes. I am NOT a violent person but look at what this book has done to me *shudders*. But as negative as these feelings were, I kind of loved it. I felt passionate about this book, which is something I’ve been missing from my last couple of reads.
Let’s take a closer look at our protagonist, Libby Day. She is the epitome of a flawed character. Not quite an anti-hero, but definitely not a hero either, Libby is selfish, violent, lazy and anti-social, yet you somehow remain on her side and root for her.
I have a meanness inside me, real as an organ. Slit me at my belly and it might slide out, meaty and dark, drop on the floor so you could stomp on it.
You want her to succeed, despite the fact that she does some horrendous things. Do you forgive her for it? Not really, but it didn’t matter. I didn’t like Libby, but I understood her and that was enough.
I was not a lovable child, and I’d grown into a deeply unlovable adult. Draw a picture of my soul, and it’d be a scribble with fangs.
Without a character like Libby that makes you care about the outcome of the story and gets you involved on an emotional level, the story wouldn’t be what it is now. The mystery alone – though well-paced and suspenseful – wasn’t enough for me to keep reading. It was the characters that made me want to keep going. The “who did it” part of the novel is only half as interesting as the “how did it come to that”. In some ways, everyone is a little bit guilty and realizing that and seeing Libby come to terms with it was fascinating.
Then we have our other main character, Ben Day. Seeing how his thoughts turned darker and darker as the story went along was a little scary. It makes the reader constantly question if he could truly be the murderer.
Sometimes he felt like he’d been gone his whole life–in exile, away from the place he was supposed to be, and that, soldier-like, he was pining to be returned. Homesick for a place he’d never been.
Plot and writing wise this book was also excellent. Gillian Flynn has some serious talent when it comes to writing unpredictable mysteries. She constantly kept me on my toes, giving me just enough information to keep me guessing and then be mislead. The alternating points of view were perhaps the biggest factor in making this story smooth and exciting throughout. The author certainly knows how to switch focus just in time to create the strongest sense of anticipation.
My main criticism of the novel is that at times I felt the story was a little too dragged out and would have been even better if it had been slightly shortened. I also question the necessity of having certain elements in the story. However, I obviously still greatly enjoyed the book overall.
This is not a book for everyone; you need a certain taste for the dark and despicable to enjoy this story. Graphic descriptions of violence, underage sex and molestation are all present. But if these things don’t bother you, then you should most definitely give this book a try.
Hi there! I'm Chantal, a 19-year-old book lover from Switzerland. Books are my primary escape from the real world and I don't know what I would do without them. When I'm not reading, I'm probably studying, dancing or listening to music. Visit me on Goodreads.
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