Book Review: Dark Places


Book Review # 12: Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
Number of Pages: 345
Copy: Trade paperback
Date Published: May 5, 2009
Publisher: Shaye Areheart Books
Rating: Image and video hosting by TinyPicImage and video hosting by TinyPicImage and video hosting by TinyPicImage and video hosting by TinyPic
(Actual rating: 4.5)

Libby Day was just seven years old when her older brother massacred her family while she hid in a cupboard. Her evidence helped put him away. Ever since then she has been drifting, surviving for over 20 years on the proceeds of the ‘Libby Day fund’. But now the money is running out and Libby is desperate. When she is offered $500 to do a guest appearance, she feels she has to accept. But this is no ordinary gathering. The Kill Club is a group of true-crime obsessives who share information on notorious murders, and they think her brother Ben is innocent.

Ben was a social misfit, ground down by the small-town farming community in which he lived. But he did have a girlfriend – a brooding heavy metal fan called Diondra. Through her, Ben became involved with drugs and the dark arts. When the town suddenly turned against him, his thoughts turned black. But was he capable of murder? Libby must delve into her family’s past to uncover the truth – no matter how painful..

What. did. I. just. read? If you thought Gone Girl was freaky, think again. Something is wrong with Gillian Flynn. She’s crazy good. She makes horror stories sound cute. How do you even think of something this twisted, woman? Okay, let me just drown in a sappy romance novel right now. But before that, here’s my review on Dark Places.

Libby Day’s replies were nonchalant even as the man in front of her declared what remained of her 25-year old bank balance. She seemed unnerved, as if she had already moved on from her tragic past, the blood shedding event that took her mother’s and sisters’ lives, committed by none other than her brother, Ben Day.

Or so she thought, until she met Lyle and the Kill Club.

Enter the Kill Club – a community of individuals who gain satisfaction from solving not just any crime. I imagined this was what Libby thought as she was introduced and toured inside a strange organization filled with people who held on to thick folders crammed with photos and clues related to a number of unpleasant events.

Libby finds herself hearing about various cases – murder, massacre, missing people – you name it. She was not entirely surprised that her family’s history made the list. What bothered her was that majority of the people working on the case were pushing for her brother’s innocence. They sincerely believed that Libby’s accusation was false. They demanded any form of evidence that could shed some light on things, and they were willing to pay Libby for it. They were determined to free Ben from a punishment they believed he did not deserve.

And Libby decided to give in to their demands. She needed the money after all. Plus she never once doubted her previous testimony. Her brother was a murderer. Exchanging letters and evidences for $500 or more seemed like a piece of cake. What could go wrong?

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about Gillian Flynn after reading this, it’s that she writes the voices of her characters very well (I cannot stress on this enough). After diving into a chapter or two, you’ll notice that everything starts powerfully and then plateaus in a manner that will make you crave more – questions, answers, anything. I have never tossed and turned and cringed so many times while reading a novel than when I read Dark Places. I literally could not loosen my hold on this book.

Do you remember how it felt when you were a little younger, when you were so focused on reading Sue Grafton’s novels?  You know A is for Alibi, B is for Burglar, etc.? When the detective finds bits and pieces of evidence and you try to draw everything in your head just so you could figure out who the perpetrator is? Well, that’s the thing. When I read Dark Places, I arrived at scenario after scenario and I still didn’t see that revelation coming. Yes, I had hunches, but they were a little too many that I decided to just give up all forms of thinking. That definitely lessened the struggle. In the end, I survived and enjoyed the chase! (well after getting over the unwanted panic and stress of it all).

I have no complaints about the pace or the mood. Everything’s all good and dark. Right, compliments, compliments. Her characters are not just flawed, they’re horrible (in a good way!). Trust me, you’ll love them for they each get a turn in making the story unforgettable and of course, hugely disturbing.

Writing style? One of the bests I’ve read. Want a sample? Don’t worry. It won’t take away anything.

More potent nightmares followed: Michelle was cooking pancakes, and grasshoppers were floating in the batter, their twig legs snapping off as Michelle stirred. They got cooked into the pancakes, and my mom made us eat them anyway, good protein, crunch, crackle. Then we all started dying – choking, slobbering,  eyes floating back in our heads – because the grasshoppers were poisoned. I swallowed one of the big insects and felt it fight its way back up my throat, it’s sticky body surfacing in my mouth, squirting my tongue with the tobacco, pushing its head against my teeth to escape.

The twists are there and fortunately, she’s not the type to just drop the bombs and give you the chance to complain about how unacceptable they are. She provides pieces of the story chapter after chapter. She does not rob you of the chance to try and figure out everything by yourself. Yes, go ahead. Try and guess but let’s be honest, you know she’ll never let you guess it right. I don’t know how many times I bolted upright while thinking “Oh man, this is torture.”

But that’s exactly what makes a thriller novel good. Yes, Dark Places is a thriller that’s too exciting to pass. So here’s the ad. If you enjoy disturbingly good thriller novels, go ahead and read this. I’m sure you’ll devour this book in less than a day. However, if you can’t handle anything darker than a closed-room murder, I advice you to stay clear of this book.

Dark Places is definitely not everyone’s cup of tea. It’s a story filled with mystery and suspense snipped and twisted in all the right places. It glitters with the correct amount of horror and gore. It’ll make you wince and tremble because when you start thinking things couldn’t get any darker than they are, they do, and it doesn’t stop there. All of a sudden, you’ll realize that everything you’ve read sounds truly believable and trust me, it doesn’t get any more horrifying than that.


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