Dark Places – Gillian Flynn

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*****CONTAINS SPOILERS*****

Libby Day was the 7-year-old victim of family tragedy turned professional victim for hire. She has fed off the murder of her mother and sisters all her life, living on donations made by well-wishers. Her testimony sent her 15-year-old brother, Ben, the devil-worshipping misfit, to jail. She is seriously damaged and depressive. She lives in a dump and lives on the dole using the tragedy as an excuse.

Now Libby is 31 and her funds are running low. She accepts an invite from the Kill Club, a group obsessed with true crimes. They believe that Ben is innocent and make Libby question her version of the past. Most of the group believe that Runner, Libby’s dad killed the family. Libby begins to investigate.

Dark Places is a time-split narrative between present-day Libby and 1985 Patty and Ben. The atmosphere of the novel is eerily macabre. The Day family is a poor one, struggling to make ends meet. Ben becomes darker as the novel progresses. He dies his hair black. A rumour of abuse of young girls at school surfaces. There was a genuine fear of devil worship that actually swept the US in the 1980s so it is easy to see why the murders could be pinned on the weird Satanist kid.

As part of her investigations on behalf of the Kill Club, Libby goes to see Ben in prison. She sees a tattoo of a name on Ben’s arm – Polly – but she can’t work out who it is.

Then as Libby remembers more repressed memories she realises that she and Krissi were coached into giving a false testimony. Libby tracks Krissi, now a stripper, down and she admits that she made up the fact that Ben abused her and claims she told her parents back then but they ignored her and were ashamed of her.

Libby discovers that the Polly tattoo is for Diondra. She tracks her down and finds out that she has a daughter by Ben, Crystal. Libby questions Diondra about the events surrounding the night of the murders but when Michelle is mentioned Libby is knocked out. The pair confess to her that Diondra killed Michelle but they plan to kill her after confessing. Libby manages to escape in a similar fashion to the way she escaped as a kid and because she is a kleptomaniac she has stolen a lipstick that she is able to give to the police that links the DNA from the crime scene. Everything comes out – Patty signed a contract for a man to kill her that night so her family would get her life insurance money, while it was happening Debby got out of bed and saw, the killer couldn’t have any witnesses so her killed her too. Meanwhile in the other room Diondra was killing Michelle.

As is normal with Gillian Flynn’s books, none of the characters in Dark Places are particularly likable. Libby is selfish and dining out on her family’s murder. Diondra is truly awful, the worst character I’ve read in a long time – she wants to kill Libby too after she is finished with Michelle but Ben scares Libby away to protect her. She constantly gets off her face even though she is pregnant. She is clearly a sociopath or a psychopath and she has groomed her daughter to kill anyone who expose them. Trey, Diondra’s “cousin” is a local small-time bookie and a Satanist (another suspect of the Kill Club). Runner, Ben’s deadbeat dad, owes Trey money and is afraid of him, he is also no use whatsoever to his family. Patty annoyed me because she just seemed weak.

Even though none of the characters are very likable, the book is really good. I really enjoyed it. You want to know more, you want to find out what happened that night. You want to give Patty a shake. You want to scream at Libby to do something, anything! If you like books like Gone Girl or Girl On The Train then I would really recommend this book.

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