I think I will have to come back in a few days after thinking long and hard about this book. I read it VERY quickly, mostly today. I could NOT put it down, I needed to know what happened!
Here's what I can say-- the plot is intricately weaved and the imagery is VIVID. Flynn is... OMG. I think my new favorite author right now. Grisly and gory but nail bitingly exciting.
It's later, and I'm still spinning from this book. There's...so much to this novel. I can't wait for Gillian Flynn's new book!
We meet Libby Day immediately in the book and we're shocked by such an unlikely protagonist. I think Flynn's golden arrow is an unlikeable hero, because Libby is just as or more unlikable than the protagonist in Sharp Objects.
When we meet Libby, she seems to be perpetually seven years old, the age she was when her parents were murdered in a gruesome, grisly, Satanic attack, for which her brother, Ben is serving a life sentence in prison. Libby is decidedly what I like to call unfortunate looking. She is missing fingers and toes, does not care for herself, lives in a ramshackle rental and depends on the kindness of strangers-- known and unknown, because Libby will steal what you don't give her. Libby is lazy and selfish, a thief and a liar, self absorbed, mean, and jealous--specifically when other murders usurp attention away from the Day Family tragedy. She both loves and hates the notoriety.
Libby's got a problem already, on page three-- she's running out of money. The public had been very kind to her, setting up a trust fund for her, which she inherited when she turned 18, but now the money was gone and Little Girl Libby might be forced to grow up.
Enter Lyle Wirth, the leader, so to speak of the "Kill Club", a group of enthusiasts who discuss and investigate odd murders such as the Day Massacre. While Libby thinks this club is odd and these people are looney, they'll pay her to attend an upcoming convention. Libby needs money, so she goes for it. While at the meeting, she's confronted about her testimony against her brother Ben-- how could she lie? Didn't she realize Ben couldn't have done it? Who did she think did it?
The idea that Ben didn't murder her family had never crossed Libby's mind. Why should it? She remembers pretty clearly, sort of, that it was Ben. Ben has a support group, however, that has been working to free him and now that the thought is planted Libby figures she may as well set about investigating the murder-- half heartedly at first because all she really wanted was the money that the Kill Club would pay for her to talk to certain people and uncover certain things, namely memorablia from the house. Libby kept all of their mementos in a box under the stairs. Until then, she couldn't bear to go through them.
Libby's memories of that night are what she calls the Dark Place. She doesn't like the dark place, but she spends quite a bit of time there, throughout the book, while she tries to uncover who actually was responsible for the crime, and why Ben is covering for it-- as Libby points out, he's never recanted or asked for a new trial or appealed the ruling. He seems content to serve his time, even if he's innocent-- WHY?
Dark Places is well written, bouncing between the POV of Libby, Ben, and her mother Patty. Ben is your typical angst ridden teenage boy with pre-pubescent sisters who annoy him. He struggles with peer pressure and being cool, and lets himself be used by Diondra, a bossy, rich girl on the good side of town, and her friend Trey, a Native American with a large chip on his shoulder and a lot of evil in his heart. Patty is a mom who is struggling like a mom never struggled before. Despite all her efforts, she and her four children are about to lose the farm that they live on, that they've called home for so many years. Patty is desperate and sad and hopeless and her attempts to make the situation better is what starts the ball rolling in this disaster. As the story rolls forward, more and more and more is revealed until the reader (or, me) finds herself overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information that has to be taken into account.
Just as in Sharp Objects, Flynn has mastered the art of the twist-out-of-nowhere. I just didn't see the end result coming, and I LOVE that! I feel like it's a waste of a book if I can predict what's going to happen. Flynn writes stories that are unpredictably delicious, gripping, full of action and conflict. Each scene is important, no characters are wasted... some of the best imagery I have read in a long time-- much of it still sticks with me days later. I'm reminded of a scene that made my stomach turn when I read it, and my stomach is still turning. I'd say Flynn hit the bullseye with this book!
Again, like Sharp Objects, this is a dark, grisly story. It is not uplifting and happy go lucky. There is no moral and you won't feel better having read it. There is no self discovery for the reader-- unless you can identify with Libby, who feels that- "if you drew a picture of me, it would be a scribble with fangs."