Week 9: Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

When I read Gone Girl a year ago, I was simply blown away. Very rarely does any sort of horror creep me out, but boy did that book give me the heebie jeebies. I diligently made a mental note to find everything she has ever written and promptly devour it. True to my procrastinating nature, it took me over a year and considerable nudging from readers at /r/books to finally get me to begin another book of her’s.

Dark Places tells the story of Libby Day, a thirty year old woman who was the sole survivor of a massacre at her Texas home when she was seven years old. Convinced that it was her fifteen year old brother Ben, who committed this crime killing her mother and two sisters, she provides the key evidence in the trial putting him in jail. Now fully grown and almost broke, Libby agrees to re-investigate this case to earn a quick buck on the request on a “Kill Club”, a morbid group of people who believe in Ben’s innocence. As she revisits the events of that fateful day, she becomes more and more confused about Ben’s involvement in the murders. Weighed down by the intense guilt of having sent her potentially innocent brother to jail she sets out to find what happened on that day twenty four years ago.

The book reads in two timelines parallely. Alternate chapters are narrated by Libby in the present day and the other half narrates the events of the day of the massacre. The book has an extremely compelling beginning in the form of the rhyme that reads,

The Days were a clan that mighta lived long
But Ben Day’s head got screwed on wrong
That boy craved dark Satan’s power
So he killed his family in one nasty hour
Little Michelle he strangled in the night
Then chopped up Debby: a bloody sight
Mother Patty he saved for last
Blew off her head with a shotgun blast
Baby Libby somehow survived
But to live through that ain’t much a life
— Schoolyard Rhyme, Circa 1985

As soon as I read this at the start of the book, I sensed I was in for a hell of a journey. After I finished I have to admit I was a little disappointed. Having read her best book first, I had extremely high expectations and unfortunately this book just failed to compare. It delivered completely with the plot and the thrills but it lacked the sophisticated cleverness of Gone Girl, replacing it instead with a certain element of plain cruelty.

All criticism aside, this book is entertaining and gripping and a very easy read. But if you haven’t read Gone Girl, I would recommend you grab that instead.