Book review – Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

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.

fresh-prince-overallsNow, 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.

blood pentagramDark 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.

dark-places-book-cover charlize-theron

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.

so apparently pictures of 4.25 stars do not exist....

so apparently pictures of 4.25 stars do not exist….


About Erin Hopkin

I am a graduate of Carleton University with a Bachelor of Public Affairs and Policy Management, with a specialization in International Studies (yes that may be the longest undergraduate degree title ever). Essentially it means I was trained to work in international policy making for the government – but that is not where I ended up. I actually work writing proposals and winning lots of business for a facility project management firm. I have always been a reader; however, my book choices have changed over the years. In university I read a lot of fantasy or books with happy endings because I was studying political science and international relations – often there are no happy resolutions to those conflicts. I now read more contemporary fiction novels with some classics, non-fiction, political and YA (a guilty pleasure) thrown in. I was drawn to the Unputdownable Book Club by my love of reading, wine and food and I am never disappointed!
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7 Responses to Book review – Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

  1. Pingback: Book of the month – Gone Girl By Gillian Flynn | The "Unputdownable" Book Club

  2. Pingback: Erin’s reading challenge – mid-year update | The "Unputdownable" Book Club

  3. sharon says:

    I find her writing in Dark Places to be extremely wordy. Maybe it’s just me, but I dont have time for endless pages of description and detail that don’t serve any purpose. I know she’s a hot writer at the moment. Is Gone Girl more compressed in its style?


    • Erin Hopkin says:

      Hi Sharon, I found Dark Places to be a very similar style to Gone Girl. If you found Dark Places wordy you will probably find the same about Gone Girl. This wasn’t something that I noticed because i got drawn into both books by the story and disturbing characters, but she keeps a consistant writing style in both books (in my opinion). However i would still recommend Gone Girl!


    • Julia Kent says:

      MUCH more. It’s really really good… though we have one or two members who liked Dark Places better!


  4. Laura says:

    If you liked Gone Girl and Dark Places, read Flynn’s first book Sharp Objects…excellent as well! There are 6 in my book club and 3 of us read similar type books and the other 3 read very different types of book, but we have read all 3 of Flynn’s books and we all like them very much. I guess there’s something for everyone with them.


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