Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
Shaye Areheart Books, New York, 2009
Somehow I missed Flynn’s first novel Sharp Objects but after reading Dark Places it is now on my list.
Libby Day was seven when her mother and two sisters were murdered. She ran from her house into a snow storm, survived, but lost some toes and ends up testifying against her brother, Ben, for the murders. Ben goes to prison and twenty-five years later, after living off a trust fund created by the public at the time of the murders, Libby is running out of money.
Enter The Kill Club, a group obsessed with notorious crimes. They believe Ben is innocent and as Libby tries to find a way to profit from their obsession she starts to doubt her own testimony.
Because of her doubts, and the possibility of financial gain, Libby begins to revisit the past. She locates people from her home town, trying to find the truth.
The novel moves back and forth in time, telling the story from several points of view. There is Libby, trying to remember what actually happened. What did she witness? Was she coached by her psychiatrist? Did the prosecution put words in her mouth? There are flashbacks of Ben on the days leading up to the murders, and of his Mom, Patty and her desperate struggle to keep her home and keep her children fed. At times this feels a bit disjointed but Flynn’s ability to place her reader into the heads of her characters and the clarity of the different voices pulls the story together. There is a mystery buried here and in the end Libby is again running for her life.
Libby is not a very likable character, she’s whiny, mean and desperate. By being forced to evaluate her own history she begins to gain a sense of self and becomes, in the end, likable. Flynn portrays the grinding poverty of Patty struggling to keep her family together, the desperation of Ben, an adolescent boy trying to fit in and the mass hysteria that builds around this type of crime in a way that reflects on American culture. Very driven and very creepy. The more I think about it the more I like it.
Gillian Flynn has a wonderful web site were she talks about women, power, anger and violence. Visit her here.