“I felt hollowed out. My mom’s death was not useful. I felt a shot of rage at her, and then imagined those last bloody moments in the house, when she realised it had gone wrong, when Debby lay dying, and it was all over, her unsterling life. My anger gave way to a strange tenderness, what a mother might feel for her child, and I thought, at least she tried. She tried, on that final day, as hard as anyone could have tried. And I would try to find peace in that.”
The second book from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn, and originally published in 2009, Dark Places is a crime mystery which follows Libby Day, who, at the age of eight, witnessed the brutal murder of her family in their rural Kansas farmhouse, for which her brother was convicted for at the time. Thirty years later, running out of money and with doubts beginning to creep up, Libby agrees to revisit the crime in an attempt to uncover the wrenching truths that led up to that tragic night.
The following post is a review of the book only. You can read my review of the film adaptation in comparison to the book here.
Dark Places is a brilliantly intense mystery and a fast-paced thriller. I read the novel in one sitting, proving yet again that Flynn knows how to completely immerse you into the story and its characters. The book felt like a real thriller with its complex story. With the case revolving around satanic rituals, as well, it felt very close to the real-life Memphis Three trial, which was made into the 2013 film Devil’s Knot, making it even more interesting to follow.
With these themes of satanic rituals, Dark Places is incredibly dark at times, especially when you don’t know where to place your trust. As you find with most of Flynn’s novels, you don’t know who you’re supposed to be rooting for, or even who to like, and this uncertainty is what grips you. The characters are so well-developed, even if all of them have their fair share of disturbing natures, and even though you don’t know who the enemy is, you find yourself relating to each of them.
The story has a really twisted tone to it, and, as much as it pains me to say, it’s even quite sexy at times. That’s probably the last word you would expect to describe a story like this, but there were many descriptive scenes involving masturbation, sex, nudity, and explicit love letters, where Flynn manages to seduce you with her writing, as completely inappropriate as that felt.
You can really connect to the characters, too. I felt so uncomfortable in how much I liked the young Ben Day. He’s sympathetic and threatening at the same time, and it’s this imbalance in his character that engages you.
All in all, you will be completely immersed in this book whether you like it or not. Flynn is one of my favourite writers at the minute, and she knows how to lure you in.
Dark Places was adapted into a film in 2016, which you can read my Book vs. Film Review for here, and watch the trailer for below: