Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn was an instant hit and has gotten a lot of press since its May 2012 release. I have heard rave reviews about it from several friends and from online reviews, including this post by UBC’s own Cat Kitts.
Now, I have never been one to go with the flow. I am pretty sure I was behind on every trend throughout elementary AND high school, and I just completely ignored some of them (hey, we can’t all be one of the cool kids…). The only trend that I did get right was the one-shouldered overall look from the early 1990s – and I am pretty sure that is because my overalls had a broken clip…
So, instead of going out and buying Gone Girl, I chose one of Gillian Flynn’s previous books: Dark Places. Gone Girl was clearly a hit, so I figured I would see if it was a one-off or if Flynn really has the writing talent I wish I had to create numerous unputdownable books.
Turns out she does.
Dark Places is the story of Libby Day, whose family was viciously murdered when she was 7. The murders involved blood, gore and of course (because it was the 1980s and satanic panic was all the rage) satanic undertones. Her brother was convicted of the murder, but a creepy group called the Kill Club (each member is obsessed with a murder case) believe he is innocent. They all have their own theories on what happened, but none know for sure. They pay Libby to reach out to those who were involved and determine what really happened.
This book is a complete page-turner. The mystery (though this is more a horror story than mystery novel – but for lack of a better term I will go with that) is well-developed and complex. I realize now that there are hints throughout, but it kept me guessing until the end. I liked the ending too; I didn’t feel like it was unrealistic or predictable.
I think Flynn’s greatest strength is her ability to write flawed characters. There are absolutely NO likable characters in this book in my opinion, yet it continues to be a page-turner. For those of you who read this post about my most despised characters, books can be complete hits or misses for me based on the characters. The characters in Dark Places all seemed like they could be real people. They were imperfect, flawed and completely disagreeable, but they worked in this story. For me to love a book that had horrible characters is quite an accomplishment – so kudos to Flynn! I also cannot wait for the movie version – Charlize Theron will make an excellent Libby, all dark, brooding and self-destructive.
Something I really enjoy in a book is multiple perspectives. This book was written from three: Libby in present day, Ben (her brother) on the day before the murder, and Patty (her mother) on the day before the murder. By including these three viewpoints a unique and comprehensive view of the events leading up to the murders, as well as the grim daily life of the Day clan, emerges. I found all three to be important and well-written, and I never was confused by who was narrating because they were so diverse. Using multiple perspectives can be risky, because if not done well it can lead to confusion and annoyance, as well as a chance of making all the characters sound alike – making the book dull and the perspectives unnecessary. Flynn, however, nailed it.
I found it difficult to rate this novel as I tend to read contemporary novels and classics, to which Dark Places cannot be compared. This isn’t a “thinker” or heart-wrenching or meant to be a life changer – it is a horror-mystery and of that genre is one of the best I have read. I will likely not re-read this (as I know the ending), but I would definitely recommend it and literally could not put it down. I give it 4.25 stars.