• If you are citizen of an European Union member nation, you may not use this service unless you are at least 16 years old.

  • Buried in cloud files? We can help with Spring cleaning!

    Whether you use Dropbox, Drive, G-Suite, OneDrive, Gmail, Slack, Notion, or all of the above, Dokkio will organize your files for you. Try Dokkio (from the makers of PBworks) for free today.

  • Dokkio (from the makers of PBworks) was #2 on Product Hunt! Check out what people are saying by clicking here.


Dark Places

Page history last edited by Anne Slaughter 13 years, 2 months ago

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

978-0-307-34156-3. $24.00

Shay Areheart Books

May 2009


Plot:  Libby was found hiding in the woods at age 7 when her mother and two sisters were brutally murdered in their Kansas farmhouse.  Her troubled  teenage brother Ben was convicted of the crime.  Nearly 25 years later, she's running out of the money donated to her by kind strangers, so she decides to sell her memories and artifacts to "The Kill Club" - an underground group of people obsessed with gruesome crimes.  When they convince her that Ben may be innocent, she decides to revisit the past, with startling and terrible results. (RV)


General Thoughts:  Couldn't put it down.  In hindsight I saw that clues were there, but I didn't guess the ending, which to me is excellent writing. (RV)


Refreshingly miserable-without-being-whiny main character. Libby could blame her shocking childhood for all her slacking and scamming, but instead shrugs off her inability to maintain and merely grumbles. The "solution" to the mystery didn't have the impact of the fantastic conclusion to Flynn's previous book, Sharp Objects. The book is much more a character study/wonderful experiment with time, place and pacing than a traditional mystery. And I'm dying to know why Flynn chose not to have Libby directly reference In Cold Blood. Famous murder of a family in farm house in Kansas? Come on. (KK)


Despite her inability to maintain any sort of "normal" patterns of life, Libby is a generally likeable and believeably screwed-up character.  The pervasively creepy settings and character interactions didn't ever feel manipulative or melodramatic--this story just lives in a very grim world.  I wouldn't call it a mystery--suspenseful, to be sure, but the impact for me was in the slow unraveling of a day's events that completely shattered a family.  Karen:  I think she wouldn't have dreamed of mentioning In Cold Blood because it's her biggest competition! :) (AS)


3 words/phrases that describe this book:  Creepy.  Dark, dark, dark.  Grim. (RV)


Disturbing, dark humor, grumpy heroine. (KK)


Dysfunctional.  Intriguing characters.  Suspenseful.  (AS)


This Book is Similar to: Flynn's debut novel, Sharp Objects.  Some early Stephen King for the darkness/look into someone's soul.  Readers who enjoyed Tana French's In the Woods, Sophie Hannah's Hurting Distance, (both were grim, had surprise endings); maybe Nancy Pickard's Marie Lightfoot series (they aren't was dark, but there's the true crime angle and surprise endings: Truth Hurts; The Whole Truth; Ring of Truth). (RV)


I agree with everything that Rebecca wrote, especially Tana French. In a weird way, I would also recommend Chuck Palahniuk for the often shocking honesty and strong, creative use of language.


Peter Abrahams.  Learning to Fly by April Henry.  In the Night Room by Peter Straub.  Laura Moriarty's The Center of Everything (only bloodier).  Oddly, Disquiet by Julia Leigh.  I think this book has a place in the "dysfunctional family that falls apart" subgenre--with a side of gore. (AS)


Would I Recommend/To whom: Yes, to readers who like dark and depressing.  To someone who likes psychological suspense.  To a true-crime reader.  To younger readers (older young adult through college age).  Men and women both. (RV)


Again, I must agree with Rebecca. She's dead on about the appeal to a certain kind of true crime reader. It's one of those books that I loved and want to recommend, but only to the right reader. A book where your recommendation says a lot about YOU. (KK, dark and creepy.)


I'm with Rebecca and Karen--readers must enjoy dark and depressing.  Also to those who enjoy stories about troubled families, or female main characters with dysfunctional backgrounds.  (AS)


Would This Be Good for a Book Discussion:  Not unless they are into this sort of thing! (certainly not an Oprah pick, that's for sure...) (RV)


Not for traditional book groups, certainly. (KK) 


It would take a very specific type of book group. (AS)

Comments (4)

Nora Rawlinson said

at 10:36 am on Mar 30, 2009

A great kick-off to the Galley Challenge, Rebecca!

I'll add a bit from the commercial side. This is clearly a big book for Crown's Shaye Arehart imprint; it gets four full pages in the catalog:

(pages 102 through 105).

The cover communicates the creepiness that Rebecca identifies as the book's major characteristic and the excerpt in the catalog begins with this creepy line:
"I have a meanness inside me, real as an organ. Slit me at my belly and it mght slide out, meaty and dark, drop on the floor so you could stomp on it."

Flynn is a Chicago author and the catalog indicates she will be doing Chicago events, which may mean extra interest in your area (hey, some of you want to try to get her for an event -- contact Marcie Purcell, head of library marketing for Random House -- Crown is one of their divisions -- mpurcell@randomhouse.com).

Flynn's previous book, her first, came out Fall of 2006, so readers may remember it. The publisher says it was a bestseller, but I can't find out which list it was on -- it wasn't on the NYT list. It was a finalist for an Edgar for best first novelist and got a strong review in the Chicago Tribune.

I'm currently reading Darling Jim, a first novel by Christian Moerk, also dark and horrifying. It's coming out this week and Holt has big hopes for it. Have you read it, Rebecca? How would you compare it to Dark Places? It's definitely a book I'd recommend.

Rebecca Vnuk said

at 10:16 pm on Mar 30, 2009

Karen! I was originally going to say Chuck Palahniuk, too!!! For his dark, grim ability to shock. Great minds (twisted minds?) think alike...

Barb Kruser said

at 7:22 pm on Apr 7, 2009

Two words that describe this book - DARK and DISTURBING!! But, also, an intriguing read! I was so intrigued by Libby - I'm not sure I liked her as a character - but she is intriguing and I understand her. Yes, I would recommend this book - but only to those readers who don't mind disturbing passages, sad characters, and doesn't need to like the characters in order to like the book (which I hear from many of my patrons - they didn't like the book because they didn't like the characters). The characters in this book are disturbingly fascinating - and I understand some of their motives - but I can't say I actually "liked" any of them. The writing is very powerful and stark. And, as for recommending for a book discussion group - it would take a special group to choose this book - definitely not the Oprah pick. I did talk about the book to one of my groups and they do want to read and discuss it! I love it! I guess I'm lucky enough to have one of those unique book discussion groups! Because I believe there is a lot to talk about - Ben's "fan" club, Libby's coping mechanisms, and family chemistry.

Joyce Saricks said

at 8:37 am on Jul 21, 2009

Just listened to the audio on a road trip-four readers (Libby, Ben, Patty, and an uncredited narrator for Angel of Debt at the end). Great performances that enhanced the mood everyone else has talked about. Chilling, haunting, moody. Characters you can't much like (except perhaps Patty's sister Diane) but can't stop thinking about. Compelling is an adjective I'd use. And I thought the language absolutely gorgeous--perhaps enhanced by the audio. Striking images that combined the lyrical with the ...almost obscene. However, as two Kansans listening, we fussed about the geography. Where exactly was this place? No prison in that area--I know, I know, it's fiction, but the feel is so right that you want to place it.
Karen, there is a reference to In Cold Blood--she mentions Holcolmb, KS, where the Clutter killings occurred (some of us still remember the headlines in the paper the next morning!) She mentions that she lived there for a time. Also a passing reference to Glenn Close. She's nothing if not subtle.

You don't have permission to comment on this page.