Let me just get it off my chest right off the bat. I absolutely loved this book, and disliked myself for liking it. With about fifty pages to go, I forced myself to bend the page corner and call it a night so I could be awake for an early obligation. After tossing and turning for over an hour, thinking about this book- that damned protagonist Libby Day who I loved to hate, or that clue I might have missed that would reveal the secret to the mystery of who murdered the Day family- I gave in to the inevitable and turned my lamp on to finish the story and clear my head.
The problem with my “bright” idea (get it? Turned on the lamp? Bright? Wow, am I cheesy) is that this is not a story that you finish and it leaves your mind. It’s the kind of novel that makes you feel dirty having read it, like you should change your sheets first thing in the morning or wash your face right after reading. Think In Cold Blood, The Silence of the Lambs… That kind of dirty. Add to that the excitement of the big reveal along with a sense of frustration aimed at half of the cast of well thought out characters, and you’re in for a restless night.
So, let’s talk about those characters. To say that Gilliam Flynn has an incredible talent for writing the most unlikeable, fucked up, insane, deadbeat, you get the picture characters is an understatement. If you’ve read Gone Girl, youll know what I’m talking about. Dark Places is written from the alternating perspective of three characters- its anti-hero, Libby Day in the present, and Libby’s mother Patty and brother Ben on a fateful day in 1985 that left Libby’s mother and two sisters brutally murdered with fifteen year old Ben convicted of the slaughter.
All three of these characters are vastly unlikeable, yet you can’t help but empathize with their situations. Libby sums her personality on her own in the opening chapter of the book-
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
She’s mean, she’s lazy, she doesn’t care. Her favorite pastime is shoplifting and stealing from other people, and she extorts money from a group called the Kill Club who hires her to help prove her brother’s innocence.
Ben and Patty both tell their stories from a past perspective. Its hard to feel dislike toward Patty, a divorce single mother of four whose ex-husband is the definition of a scum bag, but you do. Every decision she makes, you think what the hell, woman? all the way up to her last, worst decision of all. Ben is a misunderstood teenager who is as fun to deal with as every other misunderstood teenager. That should tell you all you need to know.
I dont want to talk much about the plot, because I don’t trust myself not to give anything away. Instead, I’m going to be WordPress’ laziest reviewer and copy and paste the description from Goodreads (I BEG OF YOU, FORGIVE ME! It’s insanely late, and I’m tired).
Libby Day was just seven years old when her evidence put her fifteen-year-old brother behind bars.
Since then, she had been drifting. But when she is contacted by a group who are convinced of Ben’s innocence, Libby starts to ask questions she never dared to before. Was the voice she heard her brother’s? Ben was a misfit in their small town, but was he capable of murder? Are there secrets to uncover at the family farm or is Libby deluding herself because she wants her brother back?
She begins to realise that everyone in her family had something to hide that day… especially Ben. Now, twenty-four years later, the truth is going to be even harder to find.
Who did massacre the Day family
To wrap the review up, it’s time for the final word and the rating. Reader, I always struggle when assigning a set of stars to literature. How do you compare one book to another? How do you compare crime fiction, stack up In Cold Blood (which as a side note is my all time favorite novel) against Dark Places, much less compare outside of genres? I give points for prose, dialogue, pacing, character development (this novel had them all!) but in the end it is all about the entertainment.
Flynn delivered another page turner that kept me on the edge of my seat. Praised as one of the best books of the year by The New Yorker, it isn’t hard to give a great rating to Dark Places.
4.25 out of 5 stars. And an apology for not giving my best of reviews. Like I said, sleep is at the forefront of my brain.