A Review of Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

February 27, 2019

Normally I do not do book reviews, as it falls a bit outside of my realm of mental health awareness. However, I think that I may start doing a “Wednesday Book of the Week”, because reading is so important to me. Books have changed my life, and they are one of the objects I rely on the most when I am anxious or depressed.

The most recent book I finished absolutely blew me away. I have made a list of my favorite books before, which you can read here. Gillian Flynn made it on that list twice. Well, she now gets an entire post.

What I Expected Reading Dark Places

If I have learned one thing from reading Flynn in the past, it is that she enjoys suspense as well as topics that are on the darker side. I have not once been able to guess the ending of a novel. Gone Girl literally changed my life and left me with my mouth hanging open. Sharp Objects disturbed me as well as confused me down to the last page. Therefore, when I came into Dark Places I expected the same treatment.

Disturbing topics are just a part of life for Flynn. Gone Girl explores a disturbed marriage. Sharp Objects digs into running from your past and the dysfunction that is found in every family. While these types of topics may not be everyone’s cup of tea, I absolutely live for books that can truly unsettle me.

Going into Dark Places I was also fully expecting a twist in the last five pages of the book, since that is the way both of her previous novels ended. I was excited for the shock, but also afraid that the shock factor would lessen the more I read Flynn’s books, since I was expecting that sudden flip at the end. But oh, once again Gillian Flynn outsmarted me.

What I Actually Got Reading Dark Places

Flynn definitely did not swerve away from her love of disconcerting topics. Dark Places plays around with satanic cults, troubling divorce, and lets not forget the brutal murder of a mother and her two elementary age daughters by her teenage son.

Yet, Dark Places struck a cord for me. The book is definitely not for the faint of heart. There are several scenes where teenagers are actively involved in satanic rituals. Flynn also lovingly includes several recounts of the night of the murder, in which the main weapon was a large ax. Therefore, my disclaimer for the book is that while it is no more gory than any other thriller novel, if reading of the brutal murder of children or satanic rituals is not your cup of tea, you may want to pass this book up.

Where Flynn really shocked me was with the ending. There was a light switch at the end of the novel, not anything that blew my mind, but definitely an ending I did not expect. However, in all of her previous novels, the switch made the story even more disturbing and was the final push to lodge it clearly in your mind that night as you tried to sleep. The change that Flynn took in Dark Places brought me to tears. This book will stick with me for a long time, but not because the ending was shocking or creepy, but because it gave such a strong look at the human condition.

A Brief Summary of Dark Places

So what’s the gist with Dark Places? What kind of story are you jumping into besides murder and satanism?

Dark Places follows several main characters, and flashes back and forth between present day and 25 years before on the day of the murder. Libby Day is the “main” character, as she is one of two children who survived the murder of their family, the other being Ben, her unruly older brother who has been serving life in prison for the crime.

In the flashbacks, Flynn tells the tale of the day through the eyes of Patty Day, the mother of the family, and Ben. These flashback chapters are what will eventually lead you, as well as Libby, to the discovery of the truth of that night.

In present day, Libby is unmotivated, depressed, and permanently scarred for being the only survivor of that night when she was only seven years old. She has no job, no drive, and has not seen her brother Ben since she testified against him 25 years previously and jailed him for life. She has been living off of the large sum of money she received after the deaths of her family, but her money is running out. Libby finds an opportunity to make some cash when she gets involved with the Kill Club, a group of people who are obsessed with famous crimes, including her family’s murder. Leader of her family’s crime discussion, Lyle, agrees to pay her in cold hard cash, but only if she digs into her past to discover the truth.

Libby chases down people she hasn’t seen in years, learns of people who were in Ben’s life that she never knew existed, and most importantly, visits Ben for the first time since she was 7. But, did Libby really see what she thought she saw that deadly night? Was Ben really the killer? And if he was innocent, would Libby ever be able to live with herself?

If you are looking for a book that explores the ways that children are exploited in crimes, as well as the universal truth that small mistakes and lies can create a domino effect larger than we could have ever imagined, check out Dark Places.

Feel free to use the free preview in the link above to get a taste of Dark Places. Note that if you purchase from the link above I may receive a small commission.

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