Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

I’m branching out in my reading material. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn did not include any pretty and sweet heroines whipping up batches of cupcakes, no feisty women in low cut red and black bodices trading cutting remarks with long-haired pirates and there was not a single Emma, Lizzie Bennet or Jane Austen heroine of any type in the book, which is probably obvious from the title…

Instead, Gillian Flynn gives the readers of Dark Places a heroine named Libby Day, who is a completely unlikeable liar and thief. Libby has lived her whole life scrounging a living from others. Her family and community are generally nasty people too, with the exception of a man named Lyle, who is the president of the Kill Club, where Libby is invited as a very special guest.

The Kill Club are a group of people who are obsessed with murders, the more notorious the better. Some members of the Kill Club dress up as well known murderers from history, other members try to solve unsolved crimes while other members, usually women, get involved with prisoners who they think are innocent and create action groups to try to free them. Libby has been paid an appearance fee to attend a Kill Club convention, because her brother Ben was convicted of the gruesome murders of their mother and two sisters when he was a teenager. Libby, who was seven at the time of the murders, testified against Ben in court.

Libby has run out of the money she inherited when she turned 18, which was made up of donations from well wishers at the time of the murders, and when Lyle pays her to meet with people who the Kill Club suspect were involved in her family’s murders, Libby gets involved in their investigations.

At the time of the murders, Ben was a troubled teenager who worked in his school as a janitor. He was angry and rebellious,  bullied by the people he wanted to be friends with, and is constantly misunderstood and in the wrong, although Libby remembers him being loving and kind towards her.

Libby and Ben’s mother, Patty, was equally unhappy and unfortunate. Patty fell pregnant at a very young age and at the time of her murder, was a single mother with four children, a farm with a massive amount of debt and the condemnation of her community, who were happy to take advantage of her misery. Libby and Ben’s father, Runner Day, was a no good scrounger who contributed nothing of value to anyone his whole life.

Libby’s investigation has her making contact with Ben, who has been in jail for years, Runner and several other characters who were key to the murders. As the book continued, I became more sympathetic towards Libby, and felt anxious for her as she put herself into more and more danger.  

The story is told by several characters, Libby, Ben and Patty at the time of the murders, and Libby in the present day. 

I didn’t guess the ending of this book, although when I flipped back through the book after finishing I found clues I missed on the first reading. Dark Places is well written, and is very hard to put down. Despite the horrible nature of the story, I will look for other books by Gillian Flynn.