Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
When she was a child, Libby Day's family was brutally murdered by her brother; now, at the prompting of amateur murder enthusiasts, she begins to question her own memories.
Libby Day isn't a nice person. Now in her twenties, she's been living off the money given her as a child when her family's murders garnered national attention. Nearly out of funds, she agrees - for a price - to help a group called the Kill Club reopen the brutal murders that have never stopped haunting her.
Libby is full of venom and 'dark places'. From the opening line, she makes herself unrepentantly unlikable: she's a kleptomaniac stunted by childhood trauma, determined to profit off her dark past. Trauma might be too slight a word for what she suffered as the only witness to the gruesome murders of her mother and her two older sisters, but she has refused to mature as a result. Only running out of money can force her to revisit that dark place - an investigation that naturally has dangerous consequences.
If you've read the bestselling Gone Girl, you know a little of Flynn's twisted anti-heroines. I confess that try as I might, I didn't guess the ending of Dark Places; an even bleaker story than Gone Girl, it includes murder, Satanism, and underage sex and drug use. (It's also set in Kansas, which naturally means it evokes Truman Capote's legendary creative nonfiction work, In Cold Blood.)
Dark Places is a novel with an oppressive tone - the violence, guilt, and despair may wear on you if you read it too long in one sitting. Of course, I couldn't resist reading it straight through in one day, hooked from page one. It's a better-written book than Gone Girl, and Libby Day is an anti-heroine to savor. You'll love her or you'll hate her - there's no in-between for this character.
As a next read, I immediately think of the marvelously dark In the Woods by Tana French, a book I highly recommend to literary and mystery lovers alike.
P.S. Naturally, Gone Girl is being made into a movie, with Dark Places and Sharp Objects soon to follow.
"I have a meanness inside me, real as an organ. Slit me at my belly and it might slide out, meaty and dark, drop on the floor so you could stomp on it. It's the Day blood. Something's wrong with it. I was never a good little girl, and I got worse after the murders." - 1