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VINE VOICEon August 8, 2016
DARK PLACES

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.
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on September 14, 2015
Flynn tells three stories in two timelines, and in two genres.
 
On January 2, 1985, a Kansas farm family - a mother and two daughters - are slaughtered in an apparent satanic sacrifice. The only survivors are Ben, the fifteen-year-old son, who is convicted of the murders, and a seven-year-old daughter, Libby.
 
After twenty-five years, Libby has become a depressed, neurotic woman who is almost incapable of taking care of herself. She has used up the money from the trust fund established from donations from people who pitied her. She has no idea how to work for a living. She didn't get much money from the phony self-help book she had ghost-written for her. It is her need for money that starts her investigation into what really happened to her family, not any desire for justice or peace. The Kill Club, a group of nerds who love to play detective, are fascinated by the “The Satan Sacrifice of Kinnakee, Kansas.” Most of them, especially the unmarried females, are convinced that Ben is innocent. They are not only willing to buy any mementos that Libby may have to offer, they are also willing to pay to her investigate, i.e., talk to the people involved still living. Libby agrees.
 
She does what you would expect a suspense heroine to do, despite her massive character flaws. She proves adept at handling the losers that most of the witnesses have become. She endures meeting her vile and worthless father, who is ending his days in a septic tank in a toxic waste dump in Oklahoma. She survives unmasking one of the killers. (As for the other killer, he confesses on his own.) She sees her brother freed. She even falls in love with the nerd boy she despised at first sight. I hope I don't sound like I'm sneering. I enjoyed seeing Libby triumphing. I just felt like the happy ending made this part of the novel a traditional suspense novel, an inferior genre …
 
To a true horror novel, i.e., one with a very unhappy ending. The other two stories are of the mother, Patty Day, on the last day of her life, and her son, Ben, on the last day of his freedom, and how they each brought one killer into their house. Flynn set them and their choices in a very harsh setting, rural America during the eighties. Patty Day was having the very life sucked out of her by the desperate poverty caused by the farm crisis, the interference and demands of an a worse-than-useless absentee husband, the need to keep her family alive when she has no money for the necessities, and her feelings of inadequacy and guilt. Her worse problem was her son Ben, who was not only acting like a stereotypical brat but on this day was becoming the target of that famous eighties phenomena, a child abuse witch hunt. She was convinced by the time of her death that he was guilty. She agreed finally to a very desperate plan to get out of her problems, one that backfired horribly. Meanwhile Ben spent that day being shown his own inadequacies, being harassed at school, beat up at a dive, tempted and then ridiculed by a very bad influence, and humiliated by his pregnant girlfriend. He in the end also wanted a quick exit from his problems and it also went wrong.
 
I found it almost unbearable to read. I sometimes read the last chapter of an intense thriller to make it possible for me to continue with the story. I obviously wouldn't find any comfort from that in this story line, for I knew it was going to end in an unthinkable tragedy. I would only be surprised by the why, and I was afraid of that answer. I couldn't make myself feel better by jumping to the ending because I knew the ending. I also didn't like how it was changing my attitudes towards those small Kansas towns I drive through on the way to Nebraska. I could only read a chapter a day. For causing that reaction, I am giving it four and a half stars, for that the response I look for from literary horror.
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on October 4, 2015
Gotta love Gillian Flynn. Her writing is always dark and twisted, which is what keeps me sucked in. This was certainly not her best work. I did enjoy it and probably would have given it a better rating if not for the ending. I don't know why Gillian always feels the need to disappoint me at the end of every one of her works. The first work I read by her was a novella in "Rogues". It was a very creepy story with a horrible ending. Then I moved on to Gone Girl because I wanted to watch the movie but preferred to read the book first. Again, awesome writing, horrible ending. And now, with Dark Places, she again disappoints. Great writing throughout. I love her style of changing perspectives and time frames each chapter. And the story with the twists and character development was great. But Gillian really needs to work on making the endings of her books a little more satisfying. I mean, as it is, I dislike every main character in every one of her books (which is not a bad thing), but then after I dislike them as much as I think possible, she manages to end each work by making want to kick each character in the face. I've read all her books on a kindle and just don't think it's fair to take it out on my beloved kindle, but if they were physical books, I'd probably give them that swift kick to make myself feel better.

All in all, I would recommend this book but with a little hesitation. If you are a Gillian Flynn fan, you won't be disappointed, as you're used to her style. I truly love her work, but would like her to finish them better before bowing to her as one of the greatest writers ever. For new readers of her work, start with something shorter, such as her novella in "Rogues", to see if her style is something you can appreciate.
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on April 4, 2015
After enjoying Flynn's writing style and ability to weave a twisted plot in Gone Girl, I was looking forward to reading this book. Several people have mentioned the "unsympathetic" characters in Dark Places, and I concur completely. I found the same to be true in Gone Girl, yet I came away liking the book in the end. So I kept reading, but I cannot say the same for Dark Places. I found the grisly and graphic depictions of animal torture and slaughter (dogs and cows) to be so repulsive I nearly could not finish it. By the end of the book, I was left unsatisfied and disgusted. I would not recommend this book to my worst enemy.
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on May 6, 2015
I truly love Gillian Flynn as an author, and unfortunately, read this book last of her three. The other two novels were compelling and exciting, and I felt consumed, could barely set them down.

This book I found myself having to take frequent breaks from, due to the fact that the characters were so incredibly tiresome and frustrating. It's like that one person at the office who is always in a bad mood and ruining everyone's day, has been encompassed and projected into every character in this book.

I don't know why I read it through to the end. I was holding out on hope for improvement and loyalty to Ms. Flynn. If you have started to read this book and have ventured into the comments section in order to determine whether it is worth finishing, I must encourage you not to do so. It won't get better. The characters remain almost intolerable to the bitter end.
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on April 20, 2015
I enjoyed this novel immensely. Though predictable in places, it was well written, with satisfactory character development, a few good twists, and interesting scenarios. It was a very dark story. I read it after reading her widely successful "Gone Girl," which I enjoyed, though 'pop' and contemporary in style. It was a bit disturbing as well, but nothing like this one. While reading "Dark Places," I found it quite interesting that Gillian Flynn had written such a dark novel. It's a brave author who can do this, without worrying about alienating or upsetting some readers, or pushing them away. But to pen a story with such grim and violent content is merely real and palpable, in my opinion. News flash: Things like this really happen to good people! Some readers shy away from scary themes, as the idea that life is actually like this for some unfortunate people is a place they don't want to visit. However, I more than tolerate this type of story, as characters who live through dark and crazy situations are often incredibly resilient and courageous in the eye of adversity. And although I like diverseness in writing style, I can't help hoping Flynn writes more books like "Dark Places." I'm glad I read this after "Gone Girl," as I probably would have been disappointed otherwise. It's better.
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Twenty-four years ago Libby Day's family was wiped out in one blood-soaked night, and her brother Ben is sitting in jail, in large part due to Libby's testimony. Now the sympathy money she got from strangers is running out, and she enters into a business relationship with the odd members of a Kill Club: she will use her influence to interview people involved with the case and earn a few thousand dollars, even though she disagrees with them that Ben was wrongfully convicted. But as she talks to those who knew parts of the night's events, she begins to wonder if she was mistaken. Is the killer still out there? Why is Ben willing to sit in jail even as he maintains his innocence?

As the mystery and its solution unfold, we move from chapter to chapter alternating between present-day Libby, and Ben and his mother on that horrific night, and the amazing story, while fascinating, still takes a backseat to the remarkable writing. Flynn, in this, her second book, captures the desperation of mother Patty and the dark panic of Ben as well as Libby's angry, depressed young woman with brilliant phrasing and superb dialogue. None of these characters are likable, but you can't put the book down.

"Someone had bought the property years ago, razed the house immediately, crushing walls my mother had prettied with cheap flowery posters, smashing windows we'd breathed against while waiting to see who was coming down the drive, splintering the doorframe where my mom had penciled the growth of Ben and my sisters but been too tired to chart me ..."

Wow. If you enjoy stylish psychological thrillers, you will love this book. I look forward to others by this author.
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on March 3, 2017
I am actually at a loss of words for this book. It is dark and brooding. Every single character is unlikable in their own way. Even the main character Libby, you want to root for her, but she makes it very hard. There is no character with redeeming qualities, to make up for all the violence and depravity. Yet I could not put it down. I wanted to know what really happened, the story sucked me in. I gave it 3 stars because, 2 days later, I am still thinking about it, and that is what makes a good book. It drags you in, and doesn't release its hold.
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on January 5, 2015
I am loving everything by Gillian Flynn! The only reason I'm not giving Dark Places 5 stars is that the resolution of the crime seems too improbable and improvised to be believable. That said, Flynn is a gifted writer who creates believable characters whom the reader ends up liking despite their having traits and personalities that are very unlikable. She weaves a story that draws you in immediately and has you turning pages long after you should be asleep.

I have just finished reading Sharp Objects, and I'm wishing for more from this talented author.
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on June 10, 2013
I like Gillian Flynn quite a bit. I really enjoyed both Gone Girl and Sharp Objects! But, when reading the summary of this book, it just didn't grip me. The thought of a "kill club" sounded a little too unrealistic and desolate to me. But a year after finishing both of the others I finally downloaded this one since I was in between my book club books so thought it would be a quick read to hold me over. And I've been raving about it since. I'm not sure I liked it MORE than Gone Girl, but for such a different feel, I definitely liked it as much.

It's also done in her traditional rotating perspective chapters, and that worked very well for this novel, but this had flash-back chapters from prior to the murders which was very intriguing (especially seeing back in the mind of someone you knew was killed). Once I realized that we were back on the actual day of the murders, I couldn't put the book down! (now, I do admit that it probably took me longer than it should to realize that I had been reading flashbacks of that day for a few chapters).
I love how all of her characters are flawed. Every one of them. There's no one in this cast that is "pure" and I really appreciate how she can take such an honest, human approach to her books.

The tone is dark and has the feeling of a thriller, but not a fast-paced, heart-pounding kind. The suspense is there from the beginning, but not in the normal way. We already know the outcome. The slaughter of the family has already been done and the murderer is in jail. But as the story unfolds, there are so many more layers that keep you on the edge of your seat.

I really have very few complaints about this one. It was definitely gritty and bloody at times - so maybe it's not for the faint of heart, but none of it seemed gratuitous to me. And (small SPOILER through the end of this paragraph), I was a tiny bit disappointed in the ending. I mean, EVERYONE had a motive. There was someone new that I predicted to be the "actual" killer at each turn. I was also partially convinced at times that Ben was the true killer, but maybe it was somehow through different circumstances than made public. So, when it was over and the killer revealed, I was a little upset that I couldn't have really predicted it no matter what. I would have liked it to have been someone that if I thought hard enough and focused on all the tiny details (which I wouldn't have anyway), I COULD have guessed prior to the ending. But, then again, if it was at all predictable, I probably would have complained about that also. My disappointment with this one was different than Gone Girl, though, which upset me because it didn't really HAVE an ending. This one was a very definite conclusion and we got our answers, but maybe not in the way I was hoping for.

Overall, I highly recommend this. It was an awesome page-turner. I love books that make me want to read instead of doing anything else productive!
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