As any who has read this blog can attest to, I got sucked into Gillian Flynn’s dark and scary brain this summer, starting with Gone Girl and then moving onto Sharp Objects. So on a stormy day last week, I bought her third novel (actually her second published one), Dark Places. Like the other two books, Flynn’s main character is a deeply damaged young woman from the Midwest.
Dark Places is the story of thirty-something Libby Day, the sole survivor of her family’s murder. When she was seven years old, her older brother, Ben, supposedly massacred her mother and two sisters. She escaped out of a window and lost a couple toes and fingers in the process due to frostbite (the murders happened in February).
Libby grew up tormented and angry. Her brother was put in jail for life while she lived off of donations people sent her over the years. Twenty-four years after the murder, though, the money is drying up. She has never been able to hold a job in her life – she can barely get out of bed some mornings and suddenly she has to figure out how to support herself.
Enter the Kill Club. She is contacted by a young man named Lyle who belongs to a group fascinated by unsolved murders. Lyle is particularly interested in the Day murders and like many of the people involved in the group, does not believe that Ben committed the crimes. He offers Libby money to appear at a convention of the Kill Club where she meets other supporters of Ben. They spark a curiosity in her to investigate the murder further. After all, she was only seven when it happened and was clearly coached through her testimony that damned Ben.
No matter how damaged Libby is by the events on that February night, she can’t help but use the Kill Club’s resources to start questioning the mystery. She is paid to track down different people involved with the case and question them about that night. Little by little the story starts to emerge. Each present day Libby chapter is followed by a flashback of either Ben or Patty, Libby’s mom, as they go through the day of the murder from the early morning to the murders.
The tension simmers slowly but intensely throughout the book as the reader tries to piece together what happened. Libby may be as messed up as the characters in Flynn’s other two books, but she was certainly a unique character, damaged in her own way. The Kill Club’s money drives her to action and allows her to investigate the murders slowly.
Like Flynn’s other two books, I finished this feeling unsettled. Not because the ending wasn’t satisfactory but just because it was a pretty messed up story. I guessed most of the twists in the other books (even though Flynn really did keep me guessing most of the time) but this book kept me wondering what had happened that night until the very end. I suspected a piece of it but turns out there was so much more to the story than I ever would have figured out on my own.
I seriously hope Gillian Flynn goes ahead and writes her next book soon because now that I’m done with all three, I’m not sure who else writes really good thrillers like this. Any suggestions? I prefer standalone books to a long series featuring one character but I’d appreciate recommendations for other great thrillers!