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  • Barbara Copperthwaite

Review: DARK PLACES, Gillian Flynn

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"This book is as dark as a crypt, whilst shining a searchlight-bright beam into the darkest recesses of ordinary

people’s lives"


Your brother murdered your family. Your evidence put him away . . . Libby Day was just seven years old when her older brother massacred her family while she hid in a cupboard. Her evidence helped put him away. Ever since then she has been drifting, surviving for over 20 years on the proceeds of the 'Libby Day fund'. But now the money is running out and Libby is desperate. When she is offered $500 to do a guest appearance, she feels she has to accept. But this is no ordinary gathering. The Kill Club is a group of true-crime obsessives who share information on notorious murders, and they think her brother Ben is innocent. Ben was a social misfit, ground down by the small-town farming community in which he lived. But he did have a girlfriend - a brooding heavy metal fan called Diondra. Through her, Ben became involved with drugs and the dark arts. When the town suddenly turned against him, his thoughts turned black. But was he capable of murder? Libby must delve into her family's past to uncover the truth - no matter how painful...


Libby Day is not a likeable character. What happened to her in the past has scarred her emotionally, making her hard, cynical, and out only for herself. She has never got over the slaughter of her mother and two sisters while she hid in a cupboard, and is a ball of anger at having to betray her brother by giving evidence against him.

Barely able to function, she relies on the charity of others to such an extent that all gratitude has gone out of the window; she expects hand-outs, and without them, she is lost. Sadly, though, a 30-something woman doesn’t tug at the heartstrings in the way that a child does, and so the Satanic massacre survivor finds herself forced into action for once in her life – but only so she can make some more money from her family’s death. Sometimes you’ll like Libby despite yourself, sometimes you’ll dislike her despite yourself…

It is from this hard-bitten stance that Dark Places starts; the second novel by Gillian Flynn, whose third, Gone Girl, was a global smash. As the tale goes back and forth between present time and the unfolding events of the day of the massacre, told from the varying perspectives of those involved, Flynn expertly continues to whip the reader between compassion, judgement, dislike, suspicion, and back to compassion again with all of the characters. Creating unlikeable but absorbing people is clearly something the author specialises in – look at the smash success of Gone Girl, which, in my opinion, this novel far surpasses in plot, characterisation, and pace.

Dark Places is a book that keeps you on your toes, and has you guessing then re-guessing whodunit the whole way through, as Flynn manipulates your emotions. It never feels forced though; and towards the end of Gone Girl, it did start to.

This is not a book for the faint-hearted, as some of the scenes are graphically described, particularly near the end – and Flynn doesn’t shy away from delving deep into her characters’ macabre thoughts either. This book is as dark as a crypt, whilst shining a searchlight-bright beam into the darkest recesses of ordinary people’s lives. From the very first page to the last, it drags you along, pulling no punches, and utterly absorbing you. You won’t be able to put it down.

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