After reading/ seeing Gone Girl, I was left with the empty feeling I always have after reading a great book. So, I decided to fill the void by starting one of Gillian Flynn’s other novels, Dark Places (2009). To say this book was an exceptional page-turner is an understatement.
The novel has a similar structure to Gone Girl, in that the chapters are from different perspectives and time periods. The story is set in rural Kansas, and the protagonist, Libby Day, is the sole survivor of the “Satanic cult” massacre of her family (mother and two sisters) that occurred on January 3, 1985 at 2:00 AM. Libby was seven-years-old when she witnessed the murder of her family members, and was adamant that her fifteen-year-old brother, Ben Day, killed her family. After testifying against her brother despite her young age, Ben was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. In present day, Libby is reluctantly put in touch with the head of a “Kill Club” obsessed with solving infamous murders. The club begins to convince Libby that her testimony was coached, and provides evidence of Ben’s innocence. The chapters alternate between present-day Libby, and chapters starting at 8:00 AM January 2, 1985 from Ben’s perspective, and Patty Day’s (Libby and Ben’s mother) perspective. Slowly, secrets are revealed, dots are connected, numerous suspects emerge, and you are left on the edge of your seat.
Libby is an emotionally detached and manipulative victim, Patty is a struggling single mother with questionable morals, and Ben is by far the most complicated character whose chapters will leave you feeling uneasy and disturbed. Yet, you grow to love and identify with these characters and will continue to think about them long after you finish the novel. Flynn has the unique gift of creating flawed and realistic characters whose identities leap off the page.
Only start Dark Places if you have a lot of free time on your hands, because you really won’t be able to put it down.