Dark Places

*NO SPOILER ALERT!*

Dark Places (novel)

I’m sounding the “everything’s okay” alarm, only to tell you that, because I’m NOT spoiling, this book report sucks.

Dark Places
by Gillian Flynn

This book was dark. Depressing. Creepy.

I liked it.

The beginning was a bit slow, and I almost gave up because the main character, Libby Day, was really unlikable.

I can be a real sad sack sometimes, and don’t necessarily want to read a book that makes me feel even worse. But I’m glad I stuck it out. There are things Flynn does really well– things I want to master in my own writing. And fortunately, Libby grew on me as the story progressed.

One thing Flynn has a knack for is mentioning a seemingly inconsequential person, place or object so casually early in the story, then dropping it, so you think nothing of it. Then she hits you with the crucial weight of it two hundred pages later. Some of the mentions were so subtle– a name on a mailbox, a shoe print– I was quite pleased with myself for noticing them.

There were others, I’m sure, that I missed. I’m still trying to work out how she did it, but she came across as very smart while simultaneously making me feel smart, too.

She also succeeds at creating impossible situations for her characters. The conflicts are rarely plain-vanilla good versus evil. More like rocky road, where characters must frequently choose between bad and worse; or even rockier than that, between nightmarishly awful and equally nightmarishly awful.

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t, is the order of the day for the Days.

A third thing Flynn does, and almost too often to even be believable, is turn a good thing into a bad one, or vice versa. She’ll turn a seemingly innocuous or even nice thing into something sinister later on, like the present Ben Day bought for his girlfriend. He was excited about the future, and it was sweet and endearing, but shame on me for getting all “awww, that’s so cute” about it, because when his mom found the gift and misinterpreted what she saw, all of a sudden it was incriminating evidence.

I don’t always like getting punched in the gut like that.

Conversely, some things presented as pure evil turn out to be nothing. Many of the classics are here– drugs, heavy metal music, the Satanic panic of the 80s, an ostracized teenager, a deadbeat dad. Which are to blame? I’ll never tell!

Flynn definitely holds the reader’s interest and keeps the surprises coming, but eventually it all gets to be a bit much. There could never be that many coincidences, that much false evidence stacked against a person in a real life murder case.

Could there?

I enjoyed the story. Although ultimately I wasn’t able to suspend disbelief for that many plot twists, I envy her ability to do it. I want to punch people in the gut, too, so this was great “research” reading for my WIP.

I’ll be picking up Gone Girl.

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3 thoughts on “Dark Places”

  1. I enjoyed DARK PLACES a lot, despite Libby Day being thoroughly unlikable. I found I had sympathy for her regardless, and that was enough. But then, I like dark, so maybe that accounts for it (love Ruth Rendell’s stuff, especially her books as Barbara Vine).

    GONE GIRL is a masterwork of plotting and prose. As to its main characters, without giving anything away, I’d be curious to know if your reaction is similar to mine. Will definitely check back here for a review, should you choose to do one. 🙂

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    1. I had sympathy for Libby, too. And I like dark sometimes…maybe the problem was I had just finished Don Miller and he’s so darn hopeful, the contrast was stark. Gone Girl is next on my list. I’ll review soon.
      Thanks for stopping by, and for the Ruth Rendell lead- I’ll check her out!

      Like

  2. Wow, it does seem pretty dark. In addition to your review–which was great, by the way–I checked this out on Amazon. I think it’s worthy of a future purchase, thanks!
    Thanks for stopping by my blog too.

    Like

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