Tuesday, January 21, 2014

book review: Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

The backstory: I've read and loved Gillian Flynn's other two novels Sharp Objects (my review) and Gone Girl (my review).

The basics: When Libby Day was seven, her older brother murdered their mother and two other sisters. Libby has lived off donations ever since, but now in her late twenties, the money is almost gone. She turns to the Kill Club, a secret club obsessed with murders, and they're willing to pay for her to talk to her father and brother about the crimes.

My thoughts: There's always something magical about my first 5-star read of the new year, and Dark Places is it for 2014. I was instantly drawn into this creepy world. Flynn manges to write about very dark people and events with moments of humor: "He was about to give Lyle a high-five and then thought better: his arm froze in an accidental Nazi salute." The story unfolds in alternating chapters. One is Libby's present struggles to learn more about the crimes and reconnect with her childhood. The other is to relive the day of the murders, through the eyes of both her brother, the convincted murdered, and the mother. It soon becomes clear that all may not be as it seems.

I particularly enjoyed the settings of Kansas City and Kansas in this novel. While those unfamiliar with northeast Kansas can zoom right by the names of small towns, I delighted in Glynn's geographical detail (she grew up in Kansas City and attended the University of Kansas--two more reasons to like her!) It's so rare to read a novel set in the part of Kansas where five generations of my ancestors lived, so it was a special joy.

As this novel was the third one I'd read by Gillian Flynn, I had certain expectations. I imagined the murder to be far more complicated and twisty than the official story. Check. I expected not all of the characters to be likeable, but for them to be compelling. Check. What surprised me most, however, was how original this novel, and all three of her novels are. If I read this one without knowing who the author was, I could probably guess Gillian Flynn, yet beyond her style and tone, there aren't many similarities among the three. Perhaps that is why I've liked each of her novels more, even as I read them out of order. Sharp Objects was better than Gone Girl. Dark Places was better than both. Would I feel the same way if I read them in a different order? Perhaps not. The novels aren't part of a series, but they're so complex, in plot and character, that together they form a more developed understanding of Gillian Flynn as a writer.

Favorite passage: “I know a little bit about trying to do the right thing and fucking up completely,” I added. “You talking about Mom?” Ben said. “I was talking about me.” “You could have been talking about all of us.”

The verdict: After loving both Sharp Objects and Gone Girl, I had high expectations for Dark Places, and it ended up being my favorite Gillian Flynn novel yet. It's a novel best enjoyed without expectations. Simply going along this wild ride is its own reward.

Rating: 5 out of 5
Length: 368 pages
Publication date: May 5, 2009
Source: library

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy Dark Places from an independent bookstore, the Book Depository or Amazon (Kindle edition.)

Want more? Visit Gillian Flynn's website and like her on Facebook.

As an affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you for helping to support my book habits that bring more content to this blog!

11 comments:

  1. I love authors who can write very different stories. I have (obviously) read Gone Girl but I wasn't sure if her other books would be as good. Thanks for a great review!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lindsey--with Gone Girl being the most recent, I was curious if the earlier ones would be as good, but I loved them more. Curious to see what you think of both!

      Delete
  2. Ooooh! So glad you enjoyed it, and adding to my TBR right now!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Melody--hope you love it! Have you read her other two?

      Delete
  3. I did not love Gone Girl. I thought it was a bit ridiculous towards the end but I give the woman credit because it was most definitely a page turner and even with it bugging me, I still finished it and decided I'd read her other books (and see the movie).

    But I tried to read Sharp Objects and by page 3, I was bored. I know, I know...I didn't give it enough time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think Sharp Objects took a bit longer to build--it wasn't quite as much of a traiditional thriller. Dark Places, however, grabbed me right away. I made the mistake of starting it in bed one night and was up for three hours readings. I raced through it, which is hard for me to do with work in January. I do think it's the best of her books, but I've also loved all three;-)

      Delete
  4. I think I have Sharp Objects somewhere on the bookshelves. I'll have to read it soon so that I can save this one, the best, for last.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I would definitely recommend that! Sharp Objects is really good, but there are some first novel moments (easily forgiveable), but Dark Places struck me by how much more accomplished it was. Enjoy!

      Delete
  5. This one is my favorite Gillian Flynn. I think she's an incredible author but this was by far the best of her three novels.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Heather--it's like we're reading soul mates!

      Delete
  6. I need to read this one next! (of her books) Did you know this one is going to be a movie too?

    ReplyDelete

Thank you for taking the time to comment. Happy reading!