Monday, May 4, 2015

A Grisly Whodunnit from the Author of Gone Girl

Source: Publisher Website
Dark Places by Gillian Flynn (2009; Broadway Books, 2014, 541pp.)

In this 2009 novel predating her bestselling thriller, Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn weaves a bizarre tale of Satan worship, poverty, and familicide. In the chill morning hours of January 3, 1985, a family is butchered on their dead-end farm in Kinnakee, Kansas. The only witness to the murders is 7-year-old Libby, who hid in the closet during the murders. The prime suspect in the case is her teenage brother, Ben, who had left earlier after a fight with their mother, and can't verify his whereabouts at the time of the murders. Thanks to Libby's testimony, her brother is sent to prison. But there are those who say that the malleable Libby was coached by the prosecution, that there is no evidence to support the theory that Ben, an oddball loner and avid fan of death metal, did the deed. Twenty years after the event, Libby connects with the Kill Club, a group of weirdos who are major fans of the Day Family Murders. They are also big fans of her brother, Ben, who they claim couldn't possibly have committed the murders. Their primary suspect is Libby's ne'er-do-well father, Runner, who they claim makes a much better fit as a suspect for the crimes. As our unemployed heroine agrees to track down her father in exchange for cash, the novel then switches between past and present, between Libby's POV and an array of other perspectives, including her brother, Ben, and her mother, Patty.

If you loved Gone Girl, you've probably already devoured this novel, as well as the author's debut title, Sharp Objects. If you haven't read either, whether you like this novel will depend on your patience as a reader, and your taste in literature. While Dark Places is a compulsive read, it's also incredibly strange, and at times slightly awkward. (Without revealing too much, I'll just say that one protagonist exhibits some questionable behavior towards an underage female.) Libby, too, is not a readily likeable protagonist. She starts out life on the printed page as a maladjusted kleptomaniac who lives off pity-donations
but fortunately, this changes as the narrative unfolds. By the story's end, it's easy to see the reasons for her behavior. Overall, a grisly, shocking whodunnit that probes the dark heart of a struggling family, and will keep you guessing right up until the end. Recommended for fans of The Black Dahlia and similar reads.

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