Dark Places

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)