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Dark Places Paperback – May 4, 2010
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A Weekend TODAY “Top Summer Read”
The New Yorker's Reviewers' Favorite from 2009
A 2009 Favorite Fiction Pick by The Chicago Tribune
“Another winner!”—Harlan Coben
“Gillian Flynn’s writing is compulsively good. I would rather read her than just about any other crime writer.”—Kate Atkinson
“Dark Places grips you from the first page and doesn't let go.”—Karin Slaughter
“With her blistering debut Sharp Objects, Gillian Flynn hit the ground running. Dark Places demonstrates that was no fluke.”—Val McDermid
“Dark Places' Libby Day may seem unpleasant company at first–she's humoring those with morbid curiosities about her family's murders in order to get money out of them–but her steely nature and sharp tongue are compelling. 'I have a meanness inside me,'she says, 'real as an organ.'Yes she does, and by the end of this pitch-black novel, after we've loosened our grip on its cover and started breathing deeply again, we're glad Flynn decided to share it.”—Jessa Crispin, NPR
“Flynn returns to the front ranks of emerging thriller writers with her aptly titled new novel . . . Those who prefer their literary bones with a little bloody meat will be riveted.”—Portland Oregonian
“Gillian Flynn may turn out to be a more gothic John Irving for the 21st century, a writer who uses both a surgeon's scalpel and a set of rusty harrow discs to rip the pretty face off middle America.”—San Jose Mercury News
“The world of this novel is all underside, all hard flinch, and Flynn’s razor-sharp prose intensifies this effect as she knuckles in on every sentence. . . . The slick plotting in Dark Places will gratify the lover of a good thriller–but so, too, will Flynn’s prose, which is ferocious and unrelenting and pure pleasure from word one.”—Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Gillian Flynn’s second novel, Dark Places, proves that her first – Sharp Objects – was no fluke. . . . tough, surprising crime fiction that dips its toes in the deeper waters of literary fiction.”—Chicago Sun-Times
"Flynn fully inhabits Libby—a damaged woman whose world has resided entirely in her own head for the majority of her life and who is prone to dark metaphors: 'Draw a picture of my soul, and it’d be a scribble with fangs.' Half the fun of DARK PLACES is Libby’s swampy psychology, which Flynn leads us through without the benefit of hip waders.”—Time Out Chicago
“Deliciously creepy...Flynn follows 250-some pages of masterful plotting and character development with a speedway pileup of pulse-pounding revelations.” —Chicago Reader
“A genuinely shocking denouement.” —Romantic Times
“Sardonic, riveting . . . Like Kate Atkinson, Flynn has figured out how to fuse the believable characters, silken prose and complex moral vision of literary fiction to the structure of a crime story. . . . You can sense trouble coming like a storm moving over the prairie, but can't quite detect its shape.” —Laura Miller, Salon
“These characters are fully realized—so true they could step off the page….hints of what truly happened to the Day family feel painfully, teasingly paced as they forge an irresistible trail to the truth….Could. Not. Stop. Reading.”—Bookreporter
“Libby’s voice is a pitch-perfect blend of surliness and emotionally charged imagery. . . . The Kansas in these pages is a bleak, deterministic place where bad blood and lies generate horrifically unintended consequences. Though there’s little redemption here, Flynn manages to unearth the humanity buried beneath the squalor.”—Bloomberg
“Set in the bleak Midwest of America, this evocation of small-town life and dysfunctional people is every bit as horribly fascinating as Capote’s journalistic retelling of a real family massacre, In Cold Blood, which it eerily resembles. This is only Flynn’ s second crime novel–her debut was the award-winning Sharp Objects–and demonstrates even more forcibly her precocious writing ability and talent for the macabre.”—Daily Mail (UK)
“Flynn’s second novel is a wonderful evocation of drab small-town life. The time-split narrative works superbly and the atmosphere is eerily macabre—Dark Places is even better than the author’s award-winning Sharp Objects.”—The Guardian (UK)
“A gritty, riveting thriller with a one-of-a-kind, tart-tongued heroine.” —Booklist (starred review)
“Flynn’s second crime thriller tops her impressive debut, Sharp Objects…When the truth emerges, it’s so twisted that even the most astute readers won’t have predicted it.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
About the Author
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A seven year-old little girl, Libby, testifies against her older brother Ben for the murders of her two older sisters and her mom. With Libby's words and other evidence, Ben is sentenced to life in prison.
Twenty five years later, Libby is contacted by the Kill Club. This club is one that is interested in crimes and the people involved. This club wants details from Libby. Libby is willing to do this for a price. Suffice it to say, Libby is a little messed up from being in the middle of the murders, surviving, living her life dealing with that awful night.
This Kill Club is also definitely convinced that Ben is NOT the murderer and they hope that by talking to Libby, Ben will be a free man.
So, we are off and running. I loved how this book went from past and present, jumping back and forth and explaining how events led up to that doomed night, all from various characters points-of-views. Who was involved. Who wasn't involved. Why this happened. Why this didn't happen. Flynn has a flair for writing and keeping the reader guessing and involved. The characters are disturbed, mean, calculating, believable. The situations shocking.
One thing that really bothered me was the graphic details of animal abuse and mayhem. While a part of the book and story, I didn't really appreciate reading the minute details of the slaughter of innocent animals/humans. Even though this is a murder who-dun-it, the graphics of the animal/human carnage was upsetting to me. However, as mentioned, this is all part of the story and unfortunately probably had to be.
All in all, a good read, one that will keep you guessing, keep you up until the wee hours.
Gillian Flynn has a way of creating a love-hate relationship between her characters and her readers. You love how well developed the characters are but find yourself annoyed with their flaws. Which to mean is a sign of a great writer.
This story is based on the tragic, brutal murder of a low-income, farming family. Of the family of five, only two survive, the youngest daughter, Libby Day, who is our heroine, and the oldest brother, Ben, who has been serving prison sentence for the murders for the last 25 years.A young Libby becomes the key witness of the murder case and is coerced into confessing that she witnessed her brother, Ben, commit the murders. Libby to this day is tormented by the brutal death of her mother and sisters and has never really learned how to be a functioning member of society. After 25 years of living off the donations of others and profits from a book she allowed to be written about her and her family's tragedies, the money has run out. Libby must find others ways to pay the bills. Knowing there is no way she will be able to hold down a real job, she decides to meet with members of the Kill Club, a cult-like fan club that dedicates their time obsessing over old murder cases such as the Day's.
Members of the Kill Club all have their own theories about who actually killed Libby's family and though they may not all agree on who exactly did it, they all agree that there was no way Ben himself did. With money on the mind, Libby, with the guidence of one of the main Kill Club members, Lyle, begins tracking down people from her past to ask the questions she never had the guts to ask before. As more and more facts present themselves, the more Libby is convinced her Brother is innocent. And she is the one responsible for him being locked up the last 25 years.
Finally facing the demons of her past, Libby dives into the mysterious circumstances surrounding her family's murders to seek the truth she never thought she wanted.
Top international reviews
The tone was bleak from the outset, the descriptions of murder, blood and gore explicit and chilling.
The premise is good, but the story gets bogged down in side-stories about Ben's descent into 'bad' and flipping between present and future. Libby is only a half-likable character and the Kill Club premise is flimsy, that people would pay her to investigate the crime.
The actual twist/ending was also a bit limp, and again not really believable. Hard to elaborate without spoilers, but it was disappointing having slogged through this miserable story.
I liked Gone Girl and was going to purchase Sharp Objects but I'm less keen now.
It takes a lot for me to dislike a book so much that it doesn't go on my shelf to be re-read at a later point.
The sheer horror of the situation, the foul characters, the whodunit buildup, etc made me want to read it to find out the outcome. I thought in the end it worked. This is fiction after all. The character I most admired was the mother - can you imagine how you would feel if you felt your little boy was going to end up in trouble? A desperate situation where she felt cornered. Ironic, that the person she was trying to save was lost already - love can do crazy things.
Think of real life occasions where couples have killed. Where they pressured into it? Was it some warped act of empowerment? There was a lot more going on in this book than meets the eye. It was not really about Diondra - she was a lost, freak! It was the effect she had on others, and the sad events that came about in the end that made me go WOW!
A 5 from me - I read it in a day when I should be doing other stuff! Any book that takes me away from my life like this deserves the high rating...
Real flawed help develop a character past their role in the plot and into real actual humans. But in Dark Places I felt that every single character was so deeply flawed and inherently unlikable that it causes a bit of a barrier for me and I struggled a little to make it last the middle.
I am very glad I kept reading, as one thing I love about Flynn's writing is her endings!
No spoilers, but a twisted and surprising while also satisfyingly understandable ending is another thing I've come to expect and enjoy. The ending was perfect.
I also enjoyed the quick references to real-life events that helped to root the story in the time period (which I'm too young to have any familiarity or nostalgia for). This helped suck me into Libby's horrible world.
I've chosen 3 stars, though I'd rather give 3.5 because I really did enjoy the story even if I did want someone to root for!
I loved 'Gone Girl' and am looking forward to more books of the same by Gillian Flynn.
P.S. I've now finished the book and think it's an apt ending to a story about a totally chaotic and dysfunctional family, albeit a bit far-fetched...
Dark Places has its fair share of troubled and slightly unsavoury characters but in a more reasoned, moderated and realistic way. Libby, now in her thirties, could be described as lazy, selfish and manipulative. On the other hand, she's depressed, lonely and desperate: her mother and two sisters were brutally murdered on the other side of a bedroom door when she was just a little girl. Not only that, but her once-beloved older brother, Ben, is in prison convicted of the murders. And to top it off, Libby's testimony was crucial in putting him there.
At a time when things are looking increasingly hopeless for Libby, she finds herself invited into the fold of Kill Club, a group of true crime obsessives who believe that Ben is innocent. At first riled that they are questioning the testimony that she still stands by, Libby agrees (in exchange for the money she desperately needs) to do some digging up of the past. She has to open up boxes and memories that she's kept sealed for over two decades, and speak to people she'd rather pretend didn't exist. This includes visiting her waste-of-space father and, of course, her brother.
Ben was an unhappy teenager in the 1980s, the eldest of four children his single mother could hardly afford to keep and a disappointment to his regularly-disappearing father. So he couldn't believe his luck when Diondra - a moody, violent but undeniably `cool' girl from school - is interested in him. Diondra belongs to a different social class and often has the run of her parents' house, giving Ben a glimpse of what his life could be like if he could just escape the confines of the poverty-striken family farm. Through Diondra and her cousin, Ben finds himself caught on the fringes of a world of drug abuse and Satanic rituals, a world that (like Diondra) both excites and terrifies him. Decades later, having lived the majority of his life on death row, Ben finally receives the visit from Libby that he's been waiting for - so why won't he open up and give her the answers she needs?
One of the things I liked best in Dark Places was the well-crafted narrative structure. Libby's story spans several weeks as we understand her background and current situation and then follow her as she explores those dark places from her childhood. But alternating chapters are told from a different perspective: sometimes Ben's and sometimes their mother's, and both from the day of the murders itself. This is important for two reasons: one, it gives us insight to events and situations which Libby couldn't know about due to her age or her own movements that day; and two, it reveals a lot about two central characters, who are more rounded than Libby remembers them to be (inevitably, she remembers her mother through rose-tinted glasses and her brother as the person who ruined her life).
More than this, though, the narrative is so well put-together that it doesn't feel like it's constantly jumping around. Rather, especially in the first half of the book, the end of each chapter leads seamlessly on to the start of the next, even if chronologically there is a huge gap. And clues are carefully inserted into the day-of-the-murders chapters, things that you barely take notice of as you read them but that later fall into place and help to make sense of everything Libby is uncovering. Often the sign of the best writing is that you don't notice it, but I really appreciated the care taken in stitching this story together.
I'm trying to think of what I didn't like, but nothing is coming to mind. The characters here are more rounded and real than those in Gone Girl, and the narrative approach is similar but I think more nuanced. The Day family story is set against a gritty backdrop of class divisions, poverty, domestic abuse and prejudice. And it did keep me guessing. I kept thinking I'd figured out what really happened the night of the murders, and there were a couple of things I predicted or worked out ahead of time. But things only fully fell into place for me at the end, when we find out just before Libby does how everything fits together.
If you liked Gone Girl, you should read Dark Places. And if you didn't like Gone Girl but enjoy a well-crafted psychological thriller, you should read Dark Places anyway. For me, it's a better book - it perhaps doesn't have the big twist and the edge-of-your-seat discomfort of Gone Girl, but it's cleverer and more subtle whilst still being surprising and discomforting.
by Gillian Flynn
Libby was seven years old when her mother and sisters were massacred, one freezing winter's night, leaving her traumatised, suffering from frost bite and believing that her brother was the murderer.
As a woman in her thirties she is embittered, alienated from normality and living on charity from sympathisers, which is rapidly running out despite the best efforts of her fund manager.
Libby is approached by a 'murder club' some of whom believe her brother, in prison for life for the killings, is innocent. They are willing to pay her to help them investigate and with no skills or experience to enable her to earn a living she agrees. At first, certain of her brother's guilt, she is sceptical but despite her growing unease about her part in his conviction she starts to question what really happened that night.
Told from the perspective of Libby, the survivor, with flashbacks and also sections from her brother's point of view the plot unfolds, revealing several possible suspects and a family situation that was tragedy waiting to happen before the murders.
Interesting characters, an impressive treatment of the main theme of the devastating effects of abject poverty and inadequate parenting, Dark Places is gripping and keeps you guessing to the end.
I wanted to know immeditaely what had gone on here - and had an idea it wouldn't be straightforward after reading Gone Girl.
I never guessed either - you know how sometimes you do - I mean the suggestion is possibly there earlier on but I didn't see it coming - not at least till almost the end.
The book is written in similar style as Gone Girl - lots of flicking back and forth in time - it's a style I always say I hate - but in reality I find it works really really well when unravelling something slowly (the only reason I 'hate' it is because I don't want to leave whichever timeframe it is at the end of a chapter when something interesting just happened .... which just means I can't put it down till after the next chapter or perhaps the next....
I think it is rare to come by a thriller which has so much depth but which also has you believing every single word. Often thrillers try so hard to shock that they end up seeming unrealistic but Dark Places seemed incredibly real and that added massively to the suspense of the storyline and the eventual outcome.
Dark Places is seriously dark and disturbing but the actual storyline was so gripping that I didn't mind those parts as I desperately wanted the mystery to be solved. This mystery has so many layers and there are several points in the story where I thought I had figured out who the killer was but I was wrong all along.
None of the characters are particularly likeable but the twists and turns more than make up for that. The author manages to portray Libby's depression and emptiness well even though she was very hard to like and I ended up feeling sorry for her, something which I couldn't have imagined at the beginning. The author managed to reveal new layers of Libby at just the right points which meant that you couldn't help but sympathise with her.
I still had many questions about certain characters and what their futures held but I think that this type of ending was poignant to the book and added to the 'realness' of the story.
I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys murder mystery books/thrillers. I would advise anyone who has a sensitive nature to maybe avoid as there are extremely dark parts of this book which may offend some people.
Like 'Gone Girl' this isn't so much a crime thriller as a psychological drama, drawing us into the lives of the Day family of whom only two survive in the present day - Libby the youngest daughter who survived the family massacre which was carried out (supposedly) by her brother Ben, who is serving a life sentence in prison. It takes place part in the present day as Libby carries out her investigation into what actually happened to her family - part flashback to the day prior to the massacre, seen through the eyes of Peggy the mother of the family and Ben the supposed killer. I found this to be highly effective in creating suspense as the author gives nothing away - like 'Gone Girl' this isn't a simple good vs evil tale and it's never easy to predict what the outcome will be. Is Ben an evil Columbo-style killer or a basically decent kid with way too much stress in his life? It's hard to root for his triumphant vindication when the reader is given so much insight into his teenage mindset - at times he certainly seems capable of anything - given his rage against society and his own family circumstances. Likewise, Libby isn't an immediately sympathetic character, with her petty thieving and grasping mentality. Peggy is a wonderfully believable creation - the impoverished single mum striving for the best for her family but falling far short - as is Runner the deadbeat dad (who also is a potential scapegoat for the murder).
Like 'Gone Girl' I felt the ending fell a little flat - but that's a minor quibble. This novel kept me guessing virtually throughout and was highly entertaining. Would definitely recommend - it's a bargain at the kindle price!
Dark Places truly is about the dark places in our minds. None of its characters are particularly likeable. Even the key protagonist has to grow on the reader. And yet, I found myself returning to the book more often and more quickly than any I have read since I read the Stieg Larsson Lisbeth Salander trilogy.
Dark Places is sick, twisted, depraved and peopled with unlikable characters. It is also a brilliantly written 'page turner' of a novel.
There's several reasons however that this book doesn't get 5 stars from me. Firstly I thought she just needed to get to the point at times. She was describing so much that wasn't really relevant and I just ended up skipping pages at a time because I wanted to get to the good bits (and the good bits were really good). The second reason it didn't get five stars is because of the gruesome cow killing chapter. I don't know why, but as much as I like reading about people being murdered and the gory details, I do not want to visualise poor defenceless cows being cut up and killed.
Lastly, as much as I did like the ending, I just thought it was really unbelievable. I won't say anything because I don't want to spoil it obviously, but I did struggle to believe it and felt a little bit disappointed.
Basically it was a good read, I don't feel like I wasted hours of my life that I'll never get back, however there's a few things that could be changed to make this an excellent book!