Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

Libby Day’s family got slaughtered and her older brother Ben is in jail for the murders. As the only survivor of the Day family massacre, Libby lived most of her life off the charity of sympathetic strangers until that money starts to dwindle. Having never worked a real job in her life, Libby finds herself desperate to keep herself afloat which leads her down a path of discovery. With the financial prodding of a secret ‘kill club,’ people obsessed with the Day family murders, Libby probes into the deaths of her family.

Dark Places is a thriller that jumps between the past and present. The present day is explored through Libby’s POV as she investigates the murder of her mother and two sisters. Libby’s voice is very strong. As you can imagine, she’s bitter and a bit of a misanthrope.

Other POVs include Patty Day, Libby’s mom, in the days leading up to her murder. Flynn also explores Ben Day’s POV in the days leading up to his family’s slaughter and his lifelong incarceration.

The different POVs all have very different voices. Libby’s voice is bitter, angry, with comical descriptions of people and things. Ben Day is very well portrayed as the confused fifteen-year-old boy in a bad situation. The most tragic of all, in my opinion, is Patty Day the struggling mother of four whose family farm is failing.

This is an emotional novel. I felt a range of intense sadness and sympathy to anger at some of the supporting cast, including Runner Day who might just be one of the worst fathers in fiction. The novel touches on satanic worship, true crime clubs, mass hysteria, poverty, parental neglect, and feelings of guilt. There’s also a heavy element focused on how the media, and people in general, treat some people’s personal tragedies as events to be sensationalized and fixated upon. Trauma plays heavily in the novel as you can imagine, given the main character’s personal history.

I found Dark Places to be an emotionally affecting, original and disturbing read. Flynn asks how things could go wrong for a family in Missouri, and then asks, okay, so how could things get worse, and continues asking how things could get worse until everything goes bottoms up for the Days.

Flynn grew up in Missouri and it shows. Her descriptions of the rural town where the Days live are rich with vivid color and stark reality. As always, Flynn displays an aptitude for understanding how communities respond to horrific crimes.

Dark Places is a great thriller with a tragic tilt that will leave you feeling haunted.

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