Review: ‘Dark Places’ by Gillian Flynn

I was recommended ‘Dark Places’ a few months back regarding a friend of mine, and barely heard of Gillian Flynn outside of the book. Fans of the author called her novels well-written and very addictive for readers interested in drama. Naturally, I was curious, especially when I learned what ‘Dark Places’ was about. After I got myself the time, I decided to see if the hype for it is well-deserved. And honestly? It didn’t disappoint my expectations.

The year is 1985. The location is a farm outside a small town in Kansas. Libby Day is the youngest daughter in the Day family, a family struggling in poverty and keeping their household together. The father is estranged and drunk, the mother works her butt and sanity off to raise the four kids, and the eldest son named Ben is having darker thoughts he tends to speak more about.

Then, tragedy struck on the early morning of January 3rd, 1985, when Libby’s entire family was murdered by Ben. Satanic symbols were drawn over the walls in their blood, Libby barely escaped, and Ben was tried for manslaughter and given a life sentence. Libby was only seven.

Now, with the twenty-fifth anniversary of the murders coming up, Libby is a thirty-something woman struggling on her own since the fame of her survival died down. That is, until she’s met by a man named Lyle Wirth, a member of a group that calls themselves the ‘Kill Club’. They’re people who make their own inquiries in murders whether they’re solves or unsolved, and are led to believe Ben Day never killed his mother and sisters that night.

Understandably, Libby wants nothing to do with the Kill Club, until Lyle says he can help her with her financial issues. It isn’t long though until the reluctant survivor begins to question what did happen that night, and figure out a mystery that’s haunted her since she was seven.

The strangest thing about this novel going in is that I wasn’t thrilled at first. I found adult Libby annoying at first and found the pacing very slow in the beginning chapter. However, it’s the next chapter that really hooked me in, and made me fully realize how gripping and heart-pounding Gillian Flynn’s novels truly are.

Like I said before, I didn’t find Libby interesting at first. But over the chapters, I grew fond of how cynical she can be, and fell in love with how much the murders have scarred her for life, and know the reasons why she wants to both push the truth away and know at the same time.

Speaking of which, there’s the best part of the novel. I forgot to mention that ‘Dark Places’ switches different points-of-view throughout its pages. One chapter it’ll focus on Libby’s perspective in the present as she’s solving the mystery with Lyle, and the next it’ll switch to Patty and Ben Day’s perspective on the day of the murders, showing all the twists and depth of what led to the Day murders. The reason I bring this up is because so many mystery writers, even popular and well-loved ones like Agatha Christie, focus on how events happen more then why they happen. Don’t get me wrong: it’s important to know the events of what led to a murder, but it’s more important to know the motive and emotional stages behind the killer.

Gillian Flynn’s ‘Dark Places’ is what a great mystery should be defined as. Right next to Libby, my mind was racing a mile a minute on who could’ve committed the murders, and it all led to big reveal after big reveal that kept me at the edge of my seats.

So here’s the big question you’re all wondering: is there anything I don’t like about this book? Well…sort of. ‘Dark Places’ is sometimes advertised as a book for young adults, but there are some very disturbing moments in this book that fit more for college kids, or at the very least late high school. There’s unsettling imagery, heavy references to pedophilia, a scene involving a fifteen year-old having sex (to answer your question, it only lasts half a page), and a substantial amount of blood that can make ‘I Hunt Killers’ blush.

What am I getting at anyway? I’ve read stories with even more disturbing imagery than this anyway. As far as a best-selling novel goes, ‘Dark Places’ is such a dark delight. I loved following Libby and Lyle solve the mystery as well as seeing Ben and Patty’s perspectives on the day of the murders. If you have the time, and a lot of patience, unlock yourself a book that will take you to dark places in your memory.

~*~*~*~*~

If you have any questions or already have an opinion on the novel, feel free to leave any comments. Thanks!

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