Book Review : Dark Places by Gillian Flynn –– Should You Read It?
Libby Day was seven when her mother and two sisters were murdered in “The Satan Sacrifice” of Kinnakee, Kansas. She survived—and famously testified that her fifteen-year-old brother, Ben, was the killer. Twenty-five years later, the Kill Club—a secret secret society obsessed with notorious crimes—locates Libby and pumps her for details.
They hope to discover proof that may free Ben. Libby hopes to turn a profit off her tragic history: She’ll reconnect with the players from that night and report her findings to the club—for a fee. As Libby’s search takes her from shabby Missouri strip clubs to abandoned Oklahoma tourist towns, the unimaginable truth emerges, and Libby finds herself right back where she started—on the run from a killer.
A Sneak Peek Into The Story :
That night, that night, that night.
Libby Day had woken up in the dark in the room she shared with her sisters, the house so cold that frost was on the inside of the window. At some point in the night, Debby had gotten in bed with her, as they usually jammed in together for warmth.
Having been a sleepwalker ever since Libby could walk, she didn’t remember pulling herself over her older sister Debbie. However, she did remember seeing her eldest sister Michelle, asleep on the floor. Her diary in her arms as usual, sucking on a pen in her sleep, the black ink drooling down her chin with her saliva. That night, Libby didn’t bother to try to wake Michelle up and get her to sleep on the bed instead of on the floor. Because out of everything in this loud, cold, crowded house, sleep was very viciously defended. And none of the Days woke without a fight.
“Worries find you easily enough without inviting them.”
Libby quietly tiptoed through the room, making sure not to wake her two sisters when she suddenly heard voices down the hall in her big brother Ben’s room –– urgent whispers that bordered on noise. The sounds of people who thought they were being quiet. Being the scaredy cat that she was, Libby decided not to confront Ben and the source of the noise. Instead, she decided to go to her mom’s room, pulled back her covers and pressed herself against the warmth of her mother’s back.
Mom usually didn’t move when any of her 4 children got in bed with her. It was an ongoing joke in the family, that once mom’s asleep, she’s gone until daylight came. But that night, Libby remembered that as soon as she slid under the covers, mom turned to her so quickly that Libby thought she was angry. Instead, she grabbed and squeezed Libby, kissed her on the forehead and told Libby she loved her. Mom hardly ever told any of her children that she loved them. That was why Libby remembered it so vividly, or she thought she did.
When Libby woke up next, it was to the sound of her mom wailing and Ben screaming. There were other voice too; Debby was sobbing, screaming Mommymommymommymichelle and then there was the sound of an axe. Even then, Libby knew what it was. Metal on air –– that was the sound –– and after the sound of the swing came the sound of a soft thunk and a gurgle. From her position in the room, frozen in fear, Libby could hear Debby made a grunt and a sound like sucking for air. And Ben screaming at mom : “Why’d you make me do this?”
“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. ”
And then there was a beat of silence. Enough to make Libby wonder if all of it was over. If it was safe to come out now and find mommy, before she heard her mom screaming : Run! Run! Don’t Don’t. And a shotgun blast. Mom was still yelling after that, but no longer able to make words. Just a screeching sound like a bird banging into the walls at the end of the hallway.
Huddling half in and out of the closet, Libby rocked herself. Go away go away go away. Doors banging and more footsteps and a wail, Ben whispering to himself, frantic. And then crying, a deep male crying and Ben’s voice, Libby knew it was Ben’s voice, screaming Libby! Libby!
Right at that moment, fear –– true fear like she had never felt before –– coursed through Libby. She knew that if she didn’t find a way to escape now, the same thing that happened to Mommy and Debby would happen to her too. So she opened a window in her mom’s room and pushed herself through the broken screen, a breech birth onto the snowy ground just a few feet below, her socks immediately soaked, hair tangling in the bushes.
“It was surprising that you could spend hours in the middle of the night pretending things were OK,
and know in thirty seconds of daylight that that simply wasn’t so.”
3 Words to Sum Up This Book :
Drawn-out, Tedious, Predictable
Apparently, I’m fashionably late into the game, again. As it seems, everyone had been hyping about this book years ago, and here I am, just having read my first ever Gillian Flynn novel a few days ago. Well, at least we can celebrate my Gillian Flynn cherry popped?
Ever since I dipped my toes into mystery/thriller novels, I have been looking for good, gripping novels that could grab my imaginary balls –– pardon my French –– from start to finish. And for some reason unbeknownst to me, Gillian Flynn’s name keep popping out on my recommendations. Okay, I told myself. Since the book lords seemed to enjoy Miss Flynn’s book so much that it was all that I kept seeing, I decided to go with the recommendations and picked up “Dark Places”.
And like the diligent girl that I am, I get crackin’ and readin’ right away. It started, like most books, with a bang. I was excited. After seeing the immense amount of praises that Miss Flynn in all her “New York Times Bestseller” glory received for her novels, I was convinced that this book was going to blow my socks off as well.
Lo and behold, it didn’t.
This book sucked, big time.
From the storyline, to the characters, to the ending. It. all. sucked.
From plenty of the reviews that I skimmed about “Dark Places”, it seems that Miss Flynn was infamous for her ability to write about unlikable characters. On that point, I agree. If there was anything to take away from this book at all, it was that Gillian Flynn really does know how to write shitty ass characters.
Because I couldn’t find it in me to care for any of them. Not the main character Libby, nor her dead families, nor her big brother Ben that was in prison.
When I was reading the book, it dawned on me why I had such a hard time reading Dark Places. It was that the characters in it, despite them being a 30 something years old and above, still act and think like a teenager. Their thought process were that of a teen, very short-sighted, with no depth to it whatsoever. It was as if, after the murder happened to the Days household that nearly killed all of the family members, everyone that was affected seemed to have mentally stopped growing despite them getting older.
I don’t know why I have barely seen anyone mentioning this before, but the plot was all over the place. This is my first Flynn’s novel –– which quite possibly will be my last, what with the importance of first impressions and whatnot –– so I can’t say for sure if this is how she usually goes about writing her books, but man if this lady doesn’t love fillers. Because that was what the first 75% of the book was. It was, quite literally, Libby going around chasing leads that was useless in helping to solve the mystery.
“The murders had left me permanently off-kilter in these kinds of judgment calls. I assumed everything bad in the world could happen, because everything bad in the world already did happen. ”
For the first 3/4 of this book, Libby was going around, driving from town to town to meet up with leads. Some author that wrote about the murder, her deadbeat drunk father, her brother that was in prison, his Satanic cult friends, his slutty gothic ex-girlfriend/fiancée/whatever. And it was like watching a mouse banging her head on the wall. Because all the leads gave no concrete answers, all they did was lead Libby around in circles and spewing lies after lies after lies.
But then, once we get to the last 25% of the book, suddenly, everything came into the light. The mystery that had Libby running around like a maniac for weeks was suddenly solved neatly with a bow on top in the last 25% of the book. Suddenly, everything that didn’t make sense in the first 75% of the book was straightened out. And there we have our answer, served tidily on a plate.
I mean, I’m no author. But I am a reader, and have been an avid reader for a good 8 years now, so I’d say I can at least discern between a good book and a not so good book. With that in mind, take this with a grain of salt when I say : This book ain’t it, Miss Flynn.
Another thing that bothered me regarding this book is it’s constant talk about some Satanic Cult.
I don’t get what or where Gillian Flynn is trying to get at with it’s constant mention of praying to the Satan and blood sacrifices and whatnot. Because other than to add shock value to the readers, for the amount of times that it was mentioned in the book, it did awfully little to the plot.
It was as if she was either trying to confuse the readers, wanting it to be mystery/thriller at the same time also wanting to drag her readers through a loop. Or, Miss Flynn herself was unsure which part of the storyline she wanted to stick with so she decided to just blend the whole thing in and pray for the best.
Despite me feeling nothing about all the characters in this book, Ben Day seemed to have reserved a special spot in my heart. Throughout the novel, I was at least able to find one redeemable qualities in most of the characters. With Ben, I found out that I couldn’t do that at all.
“He couldn’t bring himself to do anything but shut up and take it.
Stay still and take it. That he could do.
He’d be that kind of man. He’d become famous because he was that kind of man. ”
For one, I get where he was coming from. Having to live his life without a father figure was definitely not easy, and I feel for him. His upbringing with his not-so-strict mother might have contributed to his characters too. But even then, I don’t think it gave him the excuse to do the things that he did in this book. I could find a hundred of reason why and how he grew up to be what he was, and doing what he did, a lot of things could factor into it. But still, I could not believe that such a spineless of a character like him could exist.
There was a saying that said : Blood is thicker than water
But, that doesn’t seem to be the case with Ben Day.
The Verdict :
As I’ve mentioned above, this was my first book that I’ve ever read from Miss Flynn, and after this experience, I think I can safely say that there will not be a repeat.
Now, it’s not to say that her books are not good, since a lot of people seems to be loving, raving, and enjoying her work. It’s to say that despite the hype that surrounded her books, and the author herself, her way of writing and story telling just doesn’t work with what I enjoy reading. And that’s okay. It was an experience all the same, and I’m sure that I at least learned a word or two from this book. So not all is wasted.
With all that said, would I recommend this book?
Honestly, unless you are a die hard fan of Miss Flynn, I really wouldn’t waste my time reading Dark Places. There are so many other good mystery/thriller novels out there waiting to be discovered and read, no point in wasting your time and energy on mediocre.
“If ifs and buts were candies and nuts we’d all have a very Merry Christmas”