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Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

 

Image of Dark Places: A Novel
Dark Places: A Novel 's heroine, Libby Day, is refreshing in that she's a disaster. After overhearing the slaughter of her family at the age of 7 and testifying that her brother Ben committed the murders, she's spent the past 20-some years adrift. She can't sleep without the lights on, she has no discernible skills, she neglects her cat, and she's estranged from all of her surviving family members. Libby only survives by milking her family's tragedy, living off money donated to help her or from the profits of a book about the murders. In short, she's not likeable and basically a mess, which is pretty much how you would expect you would be after someone takes a shotgun and axe to your mother and sisters.

Since she's finally broke, Libby is forced to connect with the Kill Club, a group dedicated to obsessing over famous murders. Flynn, a Kansas City native, did her homework both in the speaking style of people of in the Missouri area and their plainspoken attitude toward the truth. A contingent of women in the club believe Ben is innocent, and one tells LIbby, "You need to right your wrongs, just like anybody else. And I'm real sorry for the loss of your family, and I'm real sorry for what you've gone through but now you need to be a grown-up and fix it." I could absolutely see someone in Kansas City saying that to me.

As Libby starts reexamining her memories, the pace quickens. The book jumps back and forth from the hours leading up the murders to the present day, exploring the troubles of Patty Day in trying to keep the family farm and her four children afloat. The final revelation provides a satisfying ending to an excellent thriller. What I love about Flynn's books is that they explore female violence, which she has written about here. In a world of Stieg Larsson wannabes, women mystery writers can face an uphill battle, but both Dark Places: A Novel and Flynn's excellent first book, Sharp Objects: A Novel offer a refreshing take on the genre. Recommended for fans of Laura Lippman or Tana French.

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