The name Dark Places is suggestive of a gritty psychological thriller. The front cover, bearing a padlock over a wooden door, is indicative of secrets being hidden away; except the lock is open. These are possibly the ‘dark places’?
Set up as a mystery thriller, it fits the genre in much the same way that Sharp Objects does. It’s not your typical crime thriller; these are creepy and dogged reads that will stick with you after reading.
The book is told from the standpoint of the main character, Libby Day, with alternating chapters giving first-person perspectives by both Ben Day, Libby’s older brother, and their Mother, Patty.
In these perspectives, we’re told of the days that transpired twenty-five years ago; all of which lead to the death of Patty, and Libby’s two sisters. Libby, aged seven, manages to escape and later testifies to the police.
In the present day, we learn that Libby’s brother Ben is in prison for the murders.
Gillian Flynn writes in a casual tone that often catches me off guard. She can nonchalantly talk about sex and violence as if it’s something that we all witness every day.
However, because of this, it adds to the sense of mystery. Everything is spoken openly, so which parts are facts, and which are fiction?
The present-day story follows the ‘kill club’, a secret group of misfits who’re obsessed with notorious crimes. They contact Libby, wanting more information on the media dubbed ‘Satan Sacrifice of Kinnakee’, that she’s the sole-survivor of.
In need of money, she agrees to attend their club but quickly realises that not everyone there agrees with her version of events.
In Need of a Friend
Libby is a well-written character with a troubled background; as you’d expect from a girl who’s had her family murdered. She has no problems in using people to get what she wants, usually a bit of extra cash, but is undoubtedly a loner. Trust issues often arise, and no-one stays in Libby’s life for long.
Ben, on the other hand, quickly gains the reputation of being a ‘devil worshipper’, something that doesn’t help his current situation.
In a way, I find Libby’s selfish cynicism to be part of her charm. She clearly lacks any strong figures or role-models in her life, and with her brother in prison and her father long gone, she has no-one to turn to.
In life, we all feel isolated from time to time, and I think these moments are what makes Libby’s struggles endearing. Although she doesn’t help herself, deep-down she isn’t a bad person, just a little irrational.
The underlining themes of the book are poverty and domestic abuse. These are the two things that the Day family must put up with every day of their lives, at least until the murders, then these troubles begin to fade.
It’s not until twenty-five years later that Libby begins to fall back into a similar pattern as her parents, and money has slipped through her fingers, forcing her to delve back into the murders for a quick paycheck.
Anyone who’s read Gillian Flynn’s work before will know what to expect going into this. It’s dark and uncompromising all the way through.
The ending is substantial and fits in well with the arc of the story and the trajectory of the main characters. This is a book by Flynn so don’t try to guess… you won’t stand a chance.
Overall, I enjoyed reading Dark Places. The characters are reliable and well-written, and I enjoyed the alternating narratives, much like Murakami’s 1Q84, but I felt the sense of mystery was lacking.
Sure, you don’t know what truly happened on that night, but the sense of drama was lacking, especially when compared to Flynn’s first book, Sharp Objects.
I’d recommend this book to any fans of gritty-thrillers, think The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but much less world-building.
It’s certainly worth your time, and you won’t be disappointed.
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