Review – Dark Places

Dark Places – Gillian Flynn

Final Thoughts: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Libby Day’s mother and two sisters were brutally murdered when she was only seven years old. Hidden in a closet, she watched the bloody massacre turn her into a survivor, and as the court proceedings began, she named her brother, Ben, as the killer. Fast forward over twenty years later, and Libby is depressed, broke, and looking for her next source of income, so long as it doesn’t involve a real job. A liaison of The Kill Club approaches her, seeking any mementos of her young life in exchange for cash. The majority of the enthusiastic club doesn’t believe in her brother’s guilt, and as they encourage (and pay) Libby to unravel the bloody events of that night, her confidence in the verdict is shaken as well.

Guys, I have a confession to make: I am not a Gillian Flynn fan.

I happily devoured Gone Girl, but it has been downhill every since. Sharp Objects still reigns as my least favorite, but Dark Places still didn’t manage to do it for me.

Flynn has an absolute killer instinct when developing totally unlikable characters. Libby is a thirty-something slacker, and I totally want to sympathize with the fact that her life was destroyed before it began, but she has such an incredulous attitude that it’s just impossible to root for her. As a fully-grown adult, she’s disgusted by the idea of a normal job, but complains about quickly growing broke. She lets us know that a failed book deal didn’t help her financial situation, and that the money from her publicly-supported fund is drained. Not only does she refuse to get a job, but she complains that nobody will donate to her fund anymore, and that new tragic cases are taking up everyone’s attention.

Girl. Your relief fund was useful and understandable when you were ten, but you should’ve figured it out by now. Relief funds and crowdsourced sympathy OBVIOUSLY only last for so long, and people stopped feeling bad for Libby decades ago. Tragedy is not a competition, but Libby is sure acting like a diva about it.

Libby has spent her entire life unquestioning the verdict of her case. The book opens explaining that Ben was a psychotic killer, and showing us how terrified Libby is of his memory. In the events of a few swift encounters, the Kill Club has manage to completely dissemble her confidence and change her mind about a fact she’s committed to her mind for twenty years. Girl, you are gullible as heck.

The explanations at the end of the novel are interesting, but totally unbelievable. Libby’s world has been shifted again as she learns and unlearned facts about an event that she was present for. However, I digress, because thrillers aren’t supposed to be predictable. Flynn’s twists and turns might be totally outrageous and implausible, but they’re, at the very least, compelling.

Most of all, I enjoyed the narratives from Libby’s childhood. I liked the glimpses of her family life and the flashbacks of happier times. The contrast between before and after was definitely interesting. I ended up liking Ben’s narrative most of all, even though he was a teenage pedophile with extremely poor judgement. I saw one review mention that when we begin learning Ben’s side of the story, the truth matches up way too unbelievably closely to the evidence from the crime scene and trial. This is definitely true, but personally, I still enjoyed learning how things ended up so misjudged and misunderstood. I liked bouncing between the stories, and anything that took me away from Libby’s present-day narrative was a relief.

The book was enjoyably dark and gorey. As a horror fan, when literature manages to create vivid scenes of violence and bloodshed, I’m always impressed. I wish I could like Flynn’s style more, but the extreme dislike I had for Libby and the disbelief I shared for her situation bogged down what was a pretty run-of-the-mill who-dunnit. With that said, as many flaws as I had with this book, I can’t say it wasn’t entertaining. I ate this book up quickly and happily, and I couldn’t put it down once the skeletons started coming out of the closet.

I have one last Flynn book on my list before I retire altogether (The Grownup), and since I’m forever an optimist, I’m still looking forward to giving it the old college try.

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