Dark Places; wonderfully disturbing

dark placesMy rating: 4 stars (out of 5)

Who hasn’t heard of Gone Girl? It was everywhere last year and because I loved the writing, I’m ploughing through Gillian Flynn’s back catalogue. Dark Places was her second book and written in 2009 (Sharp Objects was her first in 2005 and is high up on my TBR list). Dark Places is a much more harrowing story than Gone Girl because it tries to piece together the murder of an entire family in one night, save for the smallest daughter. The book intercuts from the present day and the surviving daughter’s unwilling acceptance that she needs to find out who actually murdered her family and the actual events of that day, as told from the brother and mother’s perspective. It’s reminiscent of one of my favourite (?!) horror/murder stories, Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood (itself based on the true story of a murder of one American family, The Clutters).

This felt like a different kind of book altogether from Gone Girl – just as good – but much more of a whodunnit, with less clever plot twists and turns but in some ways, more disturbing. (Gone Girl is about the damage a husband and wife inflict on each other, sometimes knowingly. Dark Places is about wondering who would want to inflict so much damage on a family). It has much more focus on money and more specifically, what the lack of hope can do to a family and the depression that sets in behind it.

I loved Gone Girl but I had a very hard time believing in the ending; I just didn’t feel the characters were absolutely believable when they made their final decisions – based upon what they had said and done in the rest of the book. The ending felt too much like it was trying to shock rather than providing us with the logical conclusion. That said, it had a lot to say about marriage and feminism (such as always being the “cool girl”) which other blogs and articles have covered in-depth. See the Guardian take on it here and here. Dark Places is just as well written but I don’t think it has as much to say. That said, it’s more scary and a great read.

My only gripe would be surrounding one aspect of Libby Day, the survivor and youngest child. Now in her 30s, Flynn does a wonderful job of showing us all of Libby’s flaws and making us love her anyway and she is our main narrator through the book. My issue is that she appears very reliable in lots of ways – she seems to know when people are lying, she has a sixth sense for bullshit and finds things out very neatly – but this seems to be too much at odds with the depressed state she finds herself in throughout. I was willing to suspend disbelief though but it’s the reason for the 4 star rather than a 5. I’m sure the author can live with that!

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