Dark Places

Read:  2015

Author:  Gillian Flynn

Published:  2010

Genre:  Mystery, Suspense

Pages:  349 (hardcover)

Selected By:  Lady Esbe

Esbe’s Score:  Scoring Great Book

“Libby Day was seven when her mother and two sisters were murdered in ‘The Satan Sacrifice of Kinnakee, Kansas.’  She survived – and famously testified that her fifteen-year-old brother, Ben, was the killer.  Twenty-five-years later, the Kill Club – a secret society obsessed with notorious crimes – locates Libby and pumps her for details.  They hope to discover proof that may free Ben.  Libby hopes to turn a profit off her tragic history: she’ll reconnect with the players from that night and report her findings to the club – for a fee.  As Libby’s research takes her from shabby Missouri strip clubs to abandoned Oklahoma tourist towns, the unimaginable truth emerges, and Libby finds herself right back where she started – on the run from a killer.” – from the Amazon summary.

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Lady Esbe’s Review

In a mad dash to complete my reading challenge for the year, I decided to take a stab at a couple of audio books while working or driving. I watched Gone Girl and thought that the movie was pretty compelling despite the absolutely horrid ending. It was the type of story that makes you want to hurt someone, because it was just that well done…evoking that level of emotion. I noted that Charlize Theron stars in the screen version of this novel and decided to give the book a go.

First I must say, Flynn has this uncanny way of making you dislike every character in the book, but at least you can relate on some level or be curious enough to drive forward to discover the answers of who, motivation and the like. That is especially true of this novel. Libby is one of main characters and I find myself so annoyed with her most of the book, that I have no empathy for the ordeal she has gone through in her youth. She has milked her childhood trauma for all it’s worth. Sloth is the name of her game. While in her youth, relying on the kindness of strangers was the norm, she let it slide into adulthood and has absolutely no desire to hold down a regular job, opting to begrudgingly allow strangers into her life. Her greed and lack of any true marketable skills pushes her to accept offers to make money by investigating her brother’s alleged crimes.

I found that Flynn did hold true that those who suffer traumas, especially those were as young as Libby are seldom able to separate fact from fiction; whether fabricated in their own mind or because they have been so coached that they believe the things that are being hoisted onto the psyche. Libby is the epitome of this. Within her heart of hearts, she feels that her brother, Ben, is truly responsible for the death of their family. But as she delves deeper into the background and story, you find more and more information that lead her to believe that all that she believed previously was false. I appreciate that Flynn has the character face her fears and preconceived notions grudgingly, but ultimately head-on. What was truly inviting for me is that Flynn has so many potential true suspects and motivations, a reader could bounce from one to another and find veracity in their motivations and actions.

I feel like I should feel sorry for Ben. I watch copious amounts of ID network and there are often stories of someone wrongfully accused having spent years in prison before it is discovered, that they are, in fact, innocent and was railroaded. Unfortunately, for Ben, I didn’t feel this way. He was maintaining a secret and as the story plays out in past and present, you sometimes think that he is the murderer of his family. Ben was a troubled fifteen year old when the murders occurred, who had been acting out and attempting to find his place. Ultimately, Ben wanted respect, as most people do. However, his methods in gaining an ego boost would be considered foolish and truly detrimental to his life or future life. He is wise enough to see that he is being manipulated; but as with so many people, he unable to understand that the choices he was making would make things harder for him. From his choice of girlfriend, his wayward ego boost he received from a fifth grader and his sudden alleged “interest” in Satanism, Ben makes all the wrong decisions and causes himself more trouble than it’s worth. Ben’s decision making skills were impaired in his youth and his adulthood by a wayward sense of penance and protection for those who should not be protected. This lack of discerning or decision making skills can be directly linked to his dysfunctional home and childhood.

Libby and Ben are two of four children that were unlucky enough to be born to Patty and Runner Day. Runner is a classic deadbeat who does as little as possible and leaving as much trouble and despair in his wake. While Patty was no prize herself, she at least attempted to be present in her children’s life, even if it was with the mealy-mouthed whiny helplessness that she felt. Her inability to stand up reflects through her children. There is a specific decision she makes during the novel that makes you question her desperation and ultimately to decide whether she was doing the best thing for her family or was ensuring its destruction. Her inability to even discipline her children properly is aggravating and may be a direct cause to those children’s demise.

While I did not particularly care for any of the characters, I could empathize with the situations each was put into. How desperation and a bleak existence pushes people to make even more poor and distressed decisions that will change their lives in the most detrimental way. In this, I think Flynn does a good job in echoing life and reality. There are always multiple factors and events in the background that cause a domino effect on the outcome of any situation; or, in contrast, where many unrelated matters line up to create a very drastic implication that would not have been drawn if the events were spread out and the events of the long ago night on the Day farm are certainly not immune to either of these situations. Each character has situations that make you empathize with each of them, but ultimately I found no one to get behind, or just as you thought you could sort out your negative emotions toward any one character, a twist was had and I was right back to disliking the characters.

Overall, it was a good read. I made the mistake of listening to it before watching the movie. Hopefully, the actors and director did justice to the book.

Esbe listened to the Audible version of this book.

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