Book: Dark Places | Author: Gillian Flynn | Started: 3/19/14 | Finished: 3/22/14 | Rating: 5 stars
Synopsis: Libby Day was seven when her mother and two sisters were murdered in “The Satan Sacrifice of Kinnakee, Kansas.” As her family lay dying, little Libby fled their tiny farmhouse into the freezing January snow. She lost some fingers and toes, but she survived–and famously testified that her fifteen-year-old brother, Ben, was the killer. Twenty-five years later, Ben sits in prison, and troubled Libby lives off the dregs of a trust created by well-wishers who’ve long forgotten her.
The Kill Club is a macabre secret society obsessed with notorious crimes. When they locate Libby and pump her for details–proof they hope may free Ben–Libby hatches a plan to profit off her tragic history. For a fee, she’ll reconnect with the players from that night and report her findings to the club . . . and maybe she’ll admit her testimony wasn’t so solid after all.
As Libby’s search takes her from shabby Missouri strip clubs to abandoned Oklahoma tourist towns, the narrative flashes back to January 2, 1985. The events of that day are relayed through the eyes of Libby’s doomed family members–including Ben, a loner whose rage over his shiftless father and their failing farm have driven him into a disturbing friendship with the new girl in town. Piece by piece, the unimaginable truth emerges, and Libby finds herself right back where she started–on the run from a killer.
My review: How do you even say that you like a book like this? How do you explain what you just read other than “what the hell did I just read and why was I addicted to it?” I read this book basically only between the hours 9 pm and 7 am. I had plenty of weird or creepy dreams while reading this book because that’s exactly what it was. But it was one of the best books I’ve read all year and now I’m impatiently waiting for Flynn to come out with the next extremely creepy book.
I can handle of gore and creepiness, but this was on a different level. This book not only had a lot of talk about murder but Satanic rituals as well. There were times when I was grossed out and wanted to quit reading but I just couldn’t put the book down. I had to know if Ben was the killer and was rightly in prison for the last 24 years or if someone else did it and he just took the blame. It was an intense battle between me wanting to stop reading the book and needing to keep reading the book. Thankfully the latter won out most times.
Flynn has been great at writing protagonists that the readers hate but kind of love at the same time. Libby is selfish and rude, but I found myself cheering for her and sticking up for her. When she was getting interrogated by the Kill Club, I was wanting to tell her to yell at them. When the members of the Kill Club were choosing her brother’s innocence over her testimony, I was seething with anger. I felt horrible for Libby during the Kill Club scenes but then I hated Libby at other times. It was a battle that went on the whole book, but in the end I found myself just cheering for something good to happen to her even if I didn’t like her.
There were three different perspectives in this book: Libby’s present day, Patty (the mother) in 1985, and Ben (the killer) back in 1985. Patty and Ben both started the morning before the killings and ending when the killings began. I like books with different perspectives and Flynn does this masterfully. I was never confused about the time period that they were in because she makes them seem like completely different worlds. In 1985, there is no mention of cell phones or even house phones that don’t have cords. In the present day, there was mention of e-mails and cell phones. Flynn makes us aware of how different the time periods were. I found that reading the 1985 perspectives, I learned more about the family that was killed which broke my heart at times. The family reminded me a little of the girls in The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides. The Day girls, not unlike the Lisbon girls in The Virgin Suicides, are close-knit and look out for each other. They don’t have many friends outside of each other. They are also known as The Day Family (especially after the murders) even though each of them have their own personalities.
I loved learning things about the other sisters through Patty and Ben’s stories because Libby’s perspective didn’t show us much of before That Night because she doesn’t remember much about it. We also learn a lot about Libby between That Night up until present day 25 years later. We learn that she was troubled and rude and unlovable which personally made me love her even more. I loved her and I hated her.
I hated Ben and sometimes I liked Ben. Conflicting feelings came when I got to know him from before That Night because I just saw a kid that was trying to fit in anywhere and unfortunately found the wrong crowd. I hated Ben because even though he found the wrong crowd, he still was a rude kid to his family. I liked Ben because he was trying to be a better person and 25 years later, maybe he wasn’t such a bad person after all?
And then there was Patty. I didn’t know how I felt about her until the end of the book. I can’t say why because it was spoil everything but I didn’t know that I could like a character so much after being so indifferent towards them for the first 300 pages. When the book was in her perspective, I felt sad that she had to live the way she did but I also knew that she could have changed it had she tried hard enough to.
About Ben being the killer: I went back and forth on this for most of the book. There were things that he said the day before the killings that made me feel like he did it and I was so sure he did it. Then there were things that were said by other people that made me so sure that he didn’t and couldn’t do it. In the end, I was very surprised. I don’t know if I loved it or was just kinda meh about it, but I felt like it was the best ending possible. Sometimes the best ending isn’t what we all want, though. Either way, that definitely did not stop me from giving this book five stars. It also won’t stop me from reading this book a second, third, or fourth time.
This book really made me think about what I would do in her situation. If I had a brother that has been in prison for a quarter century who might not even be the killer, then would I actively try to find out myself? Would I go talk to the other people that were around in that time and see what they knew or thought? Or would I just keep it the way it was and try to live my life as normally as I possibly could? Would I even get so desperate for cash that I would risk my life to try to dig up old facts about the tragedy?
I would recommend this to anyone that likes thrillers, anyone that likes the other Flynn books, anyone that liked The Virgin Suicides, and anyone that doesn’t mind gore and a lot of talk about murder and blood.