Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
Published by Broadway, an imprint of Random House
From the publisher:
Libby Day was seven when her mother and two sisters were murdered in “The Satan Sacrifice of Kinnakee, Kansas.” As her family lay dying, little Libby fled their tiny farmhouse into the freezing January snow. She lost some fingers and toes, but she survived–and famously testified that her fifteen-year-old brother, Ben, was the killer. Twenty-five years later, Ben sits in prison, and troubled Libby lives off the dregs of a trust created by well-wishers who’ve long forgotten her.
The Kill Club is a macabre secret society obsessed with notorious crimes. When they locate Libby and pump her for details–proof they hope may free Ben–Libby hatches a plan to profit off her tragic history. For a fee, she’ll reconnect with the players from that night and report her findings to the club . . . and maybe she’ll admit her testimony wasn’t so solid after all.
As Libby’s search takes her from shabby Missouri strip clubs to abandoned Oklahoma tourist towns, the narrative flashes back to January 2, 1985. The events of that day are relayed through the eyes of Libby’s doomed family members–including Ben, a loner whose rage over his shiftless father and their failing farm have driven him into a disturbing friendship with the new girl in town. Piece by piece, the unimaginable truth emerges, and Libby finds herself right back where she started–on the run from a killer.
After being blown away by the brilliance that is Gone Girl, I was on the hunt for more Gillian Flynn and lucky for me my work book club chose Dark Places for the September read. I have to say, where has Gillian Flynn been all my life? Dark Places was incredible, a truly thrilling piece of literature that I could not put down. It was dark and twisty and scary and downright horrifying at times. I loved every second of it.
What surprised me about this book was how although it’s definitely a mystery-thriller, it’s so much more than that. The characters are so well-drawn, so realistic as to make my heart hurt for them. The narrative shifts back and forth from Libby in the present day to Ben and Patty (her mother) in the days leading up to, and including the night of, the murders. It’s awful and made me so incredibly sad to read about these people, who I felt that I got to know and love, who ended up in such a catastrophic and horrific situation. This family was dirt-poor, the kids were misfits, the mom was in complete desperation, and everything about their life was just SAD. I almost found myself hoping for a different outcome for them, even though I of course knew exactly how their story would end.
Flynn has a unique ability to make me care about characters I detest. Libby is not a good person. She is prickly, cold-hearted, even downright evil at times. Yet I couldn’t help feeling sorry for her – she lost her entire family, for goodness sakes. Of COURSE she is going to be a completely unstable adult. Even Ben, who was in jail for killing three members of his family, I felt for. I couldn’t decide throughout the entire novel whether he was guilty or innocent, but as the book goes on and I got to know him I just felt sorry for him. I didn’t like anything about him, I thought he was a despicable person, especially as a teenager, but his life was very, very hard for a teen boy. Truly, I pitied him. This entire family – they weren’t good people, really, but I did feel for them. Their lives were just sad, simple as that.
And Flynn’s ability to manipulate language is masterful. She can take the simplest concept and turn it into a beautiful work of art with her words. It’s amazing, truly.
I shouldn’t have been surprised by how much I loved Dark Places, given how excellent I found Gone Girl to be, but I was a little surprised. I wasn’t expecting to be just as blown away by Flynn’s earlier novel, but I’m telling you – she is GOOD. If you are a fan of thrillers and haven’t yet given her a try you absolutely must.