Did you know that Gillian Flynn hasn’t written anything new since Gone Girl? She has kept busy doing the foreword to I’ll Be Gone in the Dark and writing the film & television adaptations to all three of her novels. Unfortunately she has been radio silent on the publishing front since the lack luster short story The Grownup in 2014!
I was really disappointed in the film adaptation of Dark Places so I hadn’t thought much of the novel until my coworker began reading it a few weeks ago. I mentioned I had read it before but, besides the highlights, couldn’t really remember all the parts causing her to audibly gasp. While this limited our ability to parse the novel as she read it I was inspired to give it a reread.
“I can feel a better version of me somewhere in there—hidden behind a liver or attached to a bit of spleen within my stunted, childish body—a Libby that’s telling me to get up, do something, grow up, move on. But the meanness usually wins out.”
In 1985 Libby Day’s mother and two sisters were murdered while Libby managed to run away. Her other brother, Ben, was convicted of the crime dubbed the “The Satan Sacrifice” of Kinnakee, Kansas and Libby’s testimony was a big part of sending him away. Dark Places is narrated by a present day Libby, broke and using her connections to the case to make some money from a Day murder aficionado named Lyle; a past Patty Day, the matriarch of the slain family; and a past Ben Day who is dealing with a demanding girlfriend and crushing money problems.
Dark Places follows the tried and true “unreliable narrator” trope. Libby was too young and is too damaged to remember what happened with any certainty while in the past we’re only given a small window into the lives of Patty and Ben Day. Information is parceled out in small doses which makes this one a bit of a page turner. Like any good thriller there are twists and turns but like a great thriller the twists and turns work so you’re not stretching the reader’s willingness to believe the outcome.