Note: This is the second installment of a three part series reviewing New York Times Bestselling Author Gillian Flynn’s current releases.
My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
“I have a meanness inside me, real as an organ.”
Libby Day was seven when her mother and two sisters were murdered in “The Satan Sacrifice of Kinnakee, Kansas.” As her family lay dying, little Libby fled their tiny farmhouse into the freezing January snow. She lost some fingers and toes, but she survived–and famously testified that her fifteen-year-old brother, Ben, was the killer. Twenty-five years later, Ben sits in prison, and troubled Libby lives off the dregs of a trust created by well-wishers who’ve long forgotten her.
The Kill Club is a macabre secret society obsessed with notorious crimes. When they locate Libby and pump her for details–proof they hope may free Ben–Libby hatches a plan to profit off her tragic history. For a fee, she’ll reconnect with the players from that night and report her findings to the club… and maybe she’ll admit her testimony wasn’t so solid after all.
As Libby’s search takes her from shabby Missouri strip clubs to abandoned Oklahoma tourist towns, the narrative flashes back to January 2, 1985. The events of that day are relayed through the eyes of Libby’s doomed family members–including Ben, a loner whose rage over his shiftless father and their failing farm have driven him into a disturbing friendship with the new girl in town. Piece by piece, the unimaginable truth emerges, and Libby finds herself right back where she started–on the run from a killer.
I see glimmers of a future bestselling author in this book, but I don’t quite love Dark Places because it doesn’t deliver on some of the things it hints at. Don’t get me wrong–I still gave it 3.5 of 5 stars because I love the darkness inside Libby. But it doesn’t resonate the same way Gone Girl does.
Libby is, quite clearly, disturbed. She’s angry and doesn’t care who knows it. She’s desperate, greedy, and lazy, and willing to do anything but get a job, since getting a job means interacting with people. Of course, she can’t avoid interacting with people–but every interaction drains her and makes her hate the world more.
Quite frankly, I didn’t like Libby, not even a little bit, but I could identify with her struggles. What must it be like to become a child celebrity not for your cherubic face on the Mickey Mouse Show but because your family was brutally murdered? We see child stars become desperate, tearing their clothes off on television and humping the air (though I have a very strong suspicion that most of the time, that’s not their own desperation but their managers’/parents’, who see their cash cow drying up–but I digress). And Libby is even more desperate than that.
As with Sharp Objects, some of the big moments aren’t handled as well as I would have liked. They’re softened, blunted somehow, an “ah, I felt it all along” moment rather than an “OMG! I didn’t see that coming AT ALL!” moment. Yet with each novel, Ms. Flynn’s depiction of some of the saddest and dislikable of humanity becomes stronger, more compelling, sharper.
If you liked Gone Girl, I recommend picking up Dark Places. And next Friday, I will talk about the book that started this blog series, the one I read first, and why I loved it.