After serious reading I like to read something more quick and dirty, so I finally got around to reading Gillian Flynn’s Dark Places, something I’d bought for a Kindle deal of the day ages ago and never felt like approaching. I was right to be hesitant I guess.
While l enjoyed Gone Girl for the most part, I think I’ve gotten sick of the trend of having incredibly unlikeable main characters and awful situations and twists. Flynn has all of these in Dark Places and while I credit her for keeping me guessing until the end this time (I knew a few chapters into GG what was really going on), I will probably not read anything further of hers if this is all she’s got. Dark Places is the story of LIbby Day, one of two survivors of her family’s massacre one January night in 1985. She was eight at the time and swore her 15-year-old brother Ben was the one doing all the killing that night. Her testimony, among other things, sent him to prison for life and her to live with her aunt. Her mother Patty and two sisters (Debby and Michelle) were all killed and Libby survived by running and hiding outside (losing some digits to hypothermia in the process). Twenty-one years (I think?) later, Libby is almost out of the money she earned from co-writing a book about her experiences. Enter Lyle, a member of a local group of mystery fans called The Kill Club. For a fee, Libby agrees to talk to people the members would never get access to, like her brother and deadbeat father. She may also sell some of her family’s things – she’s broke and doesn’t give a shit, so she thinks. As Libby begins to talk to people and look more into the case, she starts to realize her childhood self may have been wrong and there was a lot she didn’t actually know.
In theory this book has a great premise. And it isn’t awful, per se, but I’m just so tired of this kind of stuff. Gone Girl, The Girl on the Train, In a Dark Dark Wood, et al, are all kind of the same book. Dark Places is part of this. I realize that in reality shitty stuff happens to shitty people too, but I guess I like my murder mysteries a little less complicated. When you finally do realize what was going on, it actually seems really implausible. I had trouble buying that a weak and spineless 15-yr-old boy would keep his mouth shut and not fight for his freedom at all. Libby is not a great person, though she at least knows it. How much of it is due to the violence in her past and how much is just the way she was raised is hard to tell. Their mother was always overtaxed and they were dirt poor, their farm always on the brink of foreclosure. Having nothing while others have everything can make you a little resentful I’m sure. Patty regretted her choice of husband, and consequently all of her children, so they must have absorbed some of that. Each chapter is about a different character and in a different time (1985 and present day), which is an interesting device but I kept finding myself thinking “yada yada get to the point I want to know what happens but I don’t really give a shit about the particulars prior to the murder.” Sadly that is the bulk of the book – Patty and Ben’s days leading up to the murder. It helps you understand when the final reveal happens but I couldn’t have cared less really at that point. I just wanted to know whodunnit and get it over with. If you like Gillian Flynn a ton you’ll probably dig this. If not, skip it. Gone Girl was better.