I pretty much enjoyed Gone Girl, although (like many people), I did not care for the ending. I was on the fence about reading anything else by Gillian Flynn, not so much because of that, in fact I’m not really sure why I was reluctant, although one thing that threw me is that after all the dark twistiness of Gone Girl, she ended the book with an acknowledgements section that read like a high school yearbook dedication. That was the twistiest bit of all for me.
Anyway, Amazon had a Kindle deal going for this one (in fact, it’s $2.99 for Kindle right now), and the blurb really sucked me in. Libby Day was the sole survivor (sort of) of “The Satan Sacrifice” of Kinakee, Kansas. One other family member survived – her 15-year-old brother, Ben, who was convicted of the murders based on Libby’s “eyewitness” testimony. Ben escaped the death penalty, and has been in prison for 25 years. The story is told from Libby’s perspective in the present day, as well as Ben’s and their mother’s perspective on the day of the murders.
Currently, Libby is a mess – which makes sense. You don’t come out of something like that and then go on to live a normal life. She encounters a group of people who believe her brother is innocent, and they convince her (mostly with money) to do some investigation into the crime. So Libby starts looking into her past, thinking about what she did and didn’t see that night. She visits Ben, who may actually be innocent, but who may also be hiding something almost as bad. He’s oddly content behind bars, feeling that he deserves to be there even if he didn’t kill his entire family.
Meanwhile, on the day of the murders, Ben and Mrs. Day are having a rough time of it. The Days are poor – dirt poor. They’re on the verge of losing the family farm, Ben is a moody outcast with a part time job as a janitor at the school, and a secret girlfriend who may be a devil worshipper.
The book explores (somewhat) the 80s craziness about devil worship and implanting memories (remember when entire day cares full of people were being arrested based on the fully false testimony shoved into kids’ heads by “psychologists?”). Was the Day family massacre part of a devil worship ritual? Did the psychiatrists plant information about the murders in Libby’s 7-year-old mind to railroad Ben because they had no other suspects? Libby gets sucked into the investigation, now as compelled to find the truth as she was initially reluctant to even think about the murders. And when she does finally find out what really happened that night, will it make any difference to her or Ben?
There are a few coincidence-ex-machinas that make the resolution a little too pat, but the journey is so well-written and compelling that I could (almost) overlook that. The mistake I made was to go to bed with about 100 pages to go. I couldn’t stop reading, and then when I was finally done (at around 2am), I couldn’t sleep because my brain was churning so hard over the outcome of the book.