Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Review: Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

I have a confession to make.

I have had this book sitting on my shelf for a long, long time and I haven't dare to open it. Gillian Flynn is one of my favourite authors, and this is the only one of her books that I had not read. I felt certain that I would love it. But I also knew that once I had read it that was it. There would be no more Gillian Flynn books. There are rumours, of course, that she will have a new book out in late 2019, but there is also little evidence to confirm this. So I left Dark Places sitting on my shelf for a long, long time until I felt that I just couldn't stand the thought of only looking at it and not reading it.

And I loved it.

The novel opens with Libby, a troubled woman of thirty who is the only survivor of a terrible mass murder--when she was seven her older brother Ben killed her mother and two older sisters. Libby has lived her life on the handouts of others, the cash donations that various strangers have sent over the years because they feel sorry for her. But now, the money has almost run out. Meanwhile, a group who are convinced of Ben's innocence have contacted her, and are starting to ask questions that Libby has never dared ask herself before. Is it possible that Ben was not guilty after all?

Weaving between the past and present day, this Dark Places tells the story of a fractured family. There's Ben, the teenage misfit in a small town who wants more but finds himself accused of a terrible crime, their mother, Patty who is keeping the family's financial troubles a secret and grown up Libby, who, as she tracks various people down begins to realise that the truth may not be as black and white as it seems. More than one person has a motive for wanting to hurt the Day family, and much of Ben's trial was hindered by small town prejudice, the fears of the times and clumsy police work.

But, ultimately, this is a Gillian Flynn novel. There will be surprises.

I found myself drawn in by this story. The author paints her characters as flawed, yet deserving of our sympathy. There are plenty of twists, red herrings and some good old fashioned horror along the way. I'm just old enough to remember that devil worship was a thing in the mid-1980s and how inspired horror and fear in many people, sent others running back to church and caused a few people who wanted to feel powerful to do stupid and pointless things. The author captures this sense of fear perfectly. The small town setting works well.

A chilling but twisty read. Highly recommended.