When do you need to read this book? Fairly soon. Maybe third or fourth in your list.
Dark Places was thrust into my hands by Mr Shelf while I was whingeing about not knowing what to read next, possibly more as an attempt to shut me up than as a serious recommendation. However I know Gillian Flynn from Gone Girl, and if this book was anything like as twisted and creepy as that I knew I’d like it.
It’s about Libby Day, the thirty-something sole survivor of a massacre that wiped out her family on their small farm in Kansas. Her testimony as a seven year old helped put her brother Ben away for the murders. Now the inheritance money is drying up, she decides to make a profit off the morbid interest of a ‘Kill Club’, a gang of Serial-eque enthusiasts who try to solve cold cases as a hobby – but they all believe that Ben is innocent.
The good bits
I like Gillian Flynn. She has a talent for gross metaphors. Try for instance the first sentence of the entire book:
I have a meanness inside me, real as an organ. Slit me at my belly and it might slide out, meaty and dark, drop on the floor so you could stomp on it.
That’s my kind of gal.
As with Gone Girl, you have to make a conscious effort to like the protagonist. Dark Places is definitely part of the current theme (surely kicked off by Flynn herself) for unloveable female lead characters. But you can absolutely understand Libby and what she’s about – her character is well crafted, and I appreciated that the trauma she goes through is realistically dealt with, along with its longer reaching consequences.
The bad bits
Maybe I’m from an older generation of Whodunnit lovers, but this one doesn’t follow the usual path. You can see it as a good or a bad thing, but ultimately I didn’t get that gleeful air punching moment when you can say ‘yes! I KNEW it was him all along!’ (I didn’t, by the way, I got it completely wrong).
Some thought pokers, to poke your thoughts
This will be a good one for anyone looking for thorny themes to unravel, and who isn’t averse to a bit of axe-based gore and satanism. For instance, there’s lots to unpack about identity, how you are shaped by your family, and also one’s relationship to reality. Several of the characters here are totally unable to see themselves and their situation as they truly are, and there’s a hint that this brings about their destruction. This book is not for you if you’re particularly fond of cows.
Overall I’d give Dark Places…
Will you be adding Dark Places to your reading list? Or if you’ve already read it, what did you think?