Started: July 5th, 2016 | Finished: July 20th, 2016
(A very late book review that I just found in my drafts.)
I have mixed feelings about Dark Places, which seems like a trend with Gillian Flynn books.
I’ve read Gone Girl before, the book that propelled her to my attention. And I found that the same things that I didn’t like about Gone Girl also applied to Dark Places. And for me personally, Dark Places also lacked the exciting story that Gone Girl had.
The book is about a 30-something year old woman named Libby, who at the age of seven, lost her two older sisters and mother to a grisly murder at their home. Their bodies were strangled, shot, and stabbed. There were Satanic messages and symbols written in blood on the walls. It was bad. It was disturbing.
Because Libby ran away from the house at the time of the murder, she is the sole female survivor. Her dad’s not in her life, and all signs point to her eldest brother, Ben, as the killer. She testifies against him, and he’s locked up for the crime.
Years later, interest in the case springs up again, as Libby encounters the Kill Club. The Kill Club is comprised of people who are obsessed with crimes and murders, and a large majority of the club believes that her brother is innocent. Libby, desperate for money, is paid by the club for intel and memorabilia, forcing her to think about the case again. She does interviews with suspects, and finally, comes face-to-face with her brother, whom she hasn’t seen since the trial.
This winding premise is interesting, to say the least. The book also alternates between three point-of-views, Libby in present time, and her mother and brother on the day of the murders. This style was really effective. The two different timelines of past and present, with new information being revealed in both, kept my attention as details and motives and actions came together.
Each character also has a distinctive voice. Flynn’s characters are so complex, and things are never what they seem to be. The different point-of-views emphasizes the notion that there are always different sides to a story (still not a justification for the murders though).
Libby is a particularly interesting character. She’s not likable–I mean, she’s a selfish kleptomaniac, but she’s understandable. Her childhood was explained in depth, which gives context to her actions and current situation. She struggles with depression, trying not to go into the Dark Place of her mind, and she really is one of the more unique characters I’ve read in a while.
But to be honest, I thought the book was extremely boring. It took me a while to get through it and that’s pretty rare for me, since I’m always itching to know more.
As with Gone Girl, the beginning is slow and monotonous. Things didn’t get interesting until later in the book. Unlike Gone Girl, it was way later in the book. I wasn’t really committed until the very end. I blew through the last few chapters, but it took a while to get there.
I think one of the reasons for this was the misleading summary. On the back of the book, while describing Libby’s quest to find the true killer, Flynn writes:
“As Libby’s search takes her from shabby Missouri strip clubs to abandoned Oklahoma tourist towns, the unimaginable truth emerges, and Libby finds herself right back where she started–on the run from a killer.”
And Libby’s run from a killer is one of the things that made me pick up the book in the first place. And it does happen, but it was a bit of a letdown. I expected it to be a longer arc, stretched through the entire novel. So much more could’ve been done with it.
I just thought the book was underwhelming as a whole. I kept reading because I was hoping that it would be saved by the ending. And though the ending was a bit of a shock, I don’t think it was worth it.
Overall, would recommend if true crime is your thing. Flynn’s attention to detail is her strong suit. She writes with such clarity and you can tell how much research she did for this book. Whether it’s describing unbelievably true crimes or the Satanic cult craze of the 80s, the details added depth to the book. Some gore warnings, some devil warnings, but a unique, though slow, read.