A review of
by Gillian Flynn
Published by Broadway Books, 2010
If the name Gillian Flynn seems familiar, it’s because she’s the author of the super best-selling book Gone Girl, which when I last checked had been on the NYT Bestsellers list for over a year. That’s pretty impressive. But this isn’t a review of Gone Girl, which still sits unhappily at the bottom of my pile of books to read. A month or two ago I was given a copy of Dark Places at the end of a job interview and in lieu of playing Dots on my phone for the train ride home, I started reading this book instead. I’m very glad I did.
Dark Places is about a woman named Libby Day who, at age 7, witnessed the massacre of her mother and two sisters. Her older brother, Ben Day, was found guilty based on Libby’s testimony, and sentenced to life in prison for the violent crimes. Now in her 30s, Libby has been unable to move on from the tragedy, and struggles to make end’s meet. One day she receives an offer from a young man named Lyle to reopen the case of her family’s murders in exchange for cash, and soon Libby finds herself revisiting the places and people she’s spent the last twenty-five years trying to forget and once again she finds herself on the run from a killer.
What I liked the most about this book was just how different it was from what I usually read. That made it delightfully unpredictable. The book alternates between the voice of present day Libby Day and the past voices of her brother, Ben, and mother, Patty.
Libby’s chapters focus entirely on where she is now, her feelings about the past, her failure to move on, and most importantly, her interviews with “key players” from her past. The chapters featuring Ben and Patty each focus on the day leading up to the murders. Between the three different perspectives we are given the complete picture of what happened that night in their old farm house.
The combination of these perspectives really filled the novel out, and kept me reading throughout. The characters themselves are so frustrating and really unlikable that alternating voices kept me from throwing the book away in frustration, although I did have to stop reading a lot of times due to irritation. But it was a good irritation.
Sometimes I hate characters because I feel like the author has in some way misused them, or not used them to their full potential, or I hate characters who are cliches, who are stupid and unintentionally misogynistic, characters that I think I am supposed to like or love. I didn’t have these feelings reading Dark Places. Instead, I hated the characters because that’s what Flynn wanted me to do. Her characters are despicable, but the point is that they are real. Maybe not a reality that I know, but they’re real nonetheless.
The characters compel the book forward, every chapter reveals something new or interesting about their lives and the plot. And oh, the plot! I haven’t read a thriller/mystery in so many years, but this book nailed the suspense and brought to life a time and place I would never have had any awareness of otherwise. I don’t really want to say too much about it, because it’s just such a great experience.
So, I guess, all in all, I would recommend this book to almost everyone. I’d say, don’t read it if graphic descriptions of violence (against adults, children, and… cows) and some sexual acts bother you. But otherwise, I’d say even if you don’t normally read thrillers/mysteries give this one a go!
Need more incentive? There’s also a movie in production with an AWESOME and pretty perfect cast (Chloe Grace Moretz, Nicholas Hoult, Charlize Theron, Christina Hendricks) that set to be released next year, so, you know, you should read it before then.
Note: I originally gave this book a 7/10, but I’ve decided it deserves more of an 8 . . .