Review: Dark Places by Gillian Flynn


Title: Dark Places

Author: Gillian Flynn

Publisher: Random House

Genre: Mystery, General Fiction

Rating: 3 1/2 Stars out of 5

Libby Day was 7 when her mother and two sisters were murdered and her brother, Ben accused of the murder.  Now in her early 30’s, the majority of the world has lost interest in her case and the funds from strangers that Libby had been living off of are dwindling.  Faced with having to get a real job to support herself, Libby finds herself intertwined with members of a true crime society called The Kill Club.  They are convinced Ben is innocent and look to Libby to provide them access to people close to the case to provide the evidence needed to get Ben out of prison. Libby has spent the last 25 years avoiding talking to the surviving members of her family, including Ben. But desparate times call for desparate measures and Libby finds herself putting together the pieces of what exactly happened that night.

Like other Flynn novels, Dark Places is told by several narrators including Libby, Ben and their mother Patty.  Ben and Patty’s narration focuses on the day of the murders and the events leading up to that time. This provides the reader with information that Libby doesn’t have, making her an unreliable narrator at times.  Libby is often playing catch up as she speaks to people who were involved in her family’s life back in 1985.  I found this novel really hard to put down and entertaining. It runs at a steady pace and the characters are pretty well realized.  This book has the same amount of grit that Gone Girl does, especially in the descriptions of Kansas City. In fact, both novels feel like they take place in the same world, which could be coincidence or by design.

My biggest issue with this book is that it has too many twists. It almost feels like Flynn uses a twist to pick the story back up any time it lags. I started to think that no family could possibly have luck this bad, with it all happening around the same time.  I’ve read both Sharp Objects and Gone Girl and they both feel less convoluted and tighter in terms of plot.  I found myself at times forgetting I should be interested in whether or not Ben actually committed the murders and more interested in other things that were going on in the novel.  Not that the twists aren’t entertaining,  but they’re distracting from the main event and therefore each revelation tends to lose its impact.  I had a really hard time deciding what to rate this book because I did like it a lot. I just think Flynn’s other books are better. If I had read Dark Places first, my rating might have been higher. This book is being released as a movie starring Charlize Theron as Libby  in the same year as David Fincher’s adaptation of Gone Girl. It’ll be interesting to see how the two movies compare.  My money is still on Gone Girl, but Dark Places should also be a great piece of dark entertainment.


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