Book Review: Dark Places
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 until The Kill Club, a macabre secret society obsessed with notorious crimes, 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.
ashley | Gillian Flynn took the literary world by storm with Gone Girl, but she’s been writing dark thrillers for some time now. I put off reading Dark Places because of my love for Gone Girl and Sharp Objects. This was the only published novel of hers I had not read and I didn’t want to be done with these dark and disturbing stories. But milking her current success, Dark Places is also being made into a movie this year (along with Gone Girl), so I figured it was about time I dove in.
While Dark Places wasn’t quite as good as her other work, what I do love about it, and about Flynn’s writing in general, is that she takes very simple stories, things that you’ve read about a million times before, to a completely different level. She adds these extra layers of grimy detail that turn your typical murder mystery into a horror story. Nothing is outrageously shocking, but that’s kind of the beauty of it. She shines a light on those secret thoughts you don’t ever want to admit to having and writes about subject matter that most people pretend doesn’t exist. She brings your darkest nightmares to life in a very real way.
I guess my biggest issue with Dark Places was that I couldn’t really relate to or sympathize much with Libby Day, the only female in her family who was not slaughtered by her brother Ben, who is now in jail. While I can’t imagine what kind of affect witnessing something so horrible would have on the mind, body and soul, I just didn’t form much of an attachment to her and wasn’t rooting for her to uncover her family secret or for her to find some kind of light in all her darkness. No matter how twisted or unpleasant Flynn’s characters have been, I’ve always still had a draw to them in some way, but with Libby, I really didn’t care either way.
That said, there was still some kind of release when everything became clear about that horrible night. As it so often does, the climactic moment manages to sneak up behind you with a result slightly unlike what you were expecting. And I have to wonder where the inspiration for these tragedies comes from or if Flynn is just plucking ideas from her own personal Darkplace.