Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Your brother murdered your family. Your evidence put him away . . . the gripping second novel from the author of the mega-bestselling GONE GIRL.
Libby Day was just seven years old when her older brother massacred her family while she hid in a cupboard. Her evidence helped put him away. Ever since then she has been drifting, surviving for over 20 years on the proceeds of the 'Libby Day fund'. But now the money is running out and Libby is desperate. When she is offered $500 to do a guest appearance, she feels she has to accept. But this is no ordinary gathering. The Kill Club is a group of true-crime obsessives who share information on notorious murders, and they think her brother Ben is innocent.
Ben was a social misfit, ground down by the small-town farming community in which he lived. But he did have a girlfriend - a brooding heavy metal fan called Diondra. Through her, Ben became involved with drugs and the dark arts. When the town suddenly turned against him, his thoughts turned black. But was he capable of murder? Libby must delve into her family's past to uncover the truth - no matter how painful...
From the opening chapter told by Libby Day I was hooked. Gillian Flynn appears to have this great knack of throwing out her line, hooking the reader and then slowly reels them in over the course of the novel.
The story is told from three perspectives and although it does skip from past to present it is done in a uniform way so that the reader is not confused or lost at any time. The story essentially is about a family tragedy in Kansas, Missouri during 1985 and is told by the one surviving family member Libby Day, her brother Ben, and her mother Patty. Through these different perspectives we learn the hidden secrets of these three and how on January 3rd 1985 Libby's family is murdered and her brother blamed for the events.
Patty a divorced mother of four is desperately trying to keep the family farm going while bringing up her children. Exhausted, working so hard to keep all ends up in the air she neglects to really see what is happening in her family, she starts to worry about her son being involved in satanic rituals; afraid to over react and push him further away from her but needing to protect him she finds herself drifting away from her son, not really knowing him. Her ex husband and father to the children Runner turns up periodically when he wants money, never helps her to keep the farm going, doesn't worry how she manages only sees her as a meal ticket. She can't confide in him about the children who he doesn't understand or really care about anyway and Patty finds herself constantly alone except from her sister Diana.
Then we have Ben - fifteen, troubled youngster in that he always feels inadequate, his father when he is around appears to mock him, he has no real friends, gets lost in his music Heavy Metal behind a padlocked door to keep out his sisters in particular Michelle. A loner who is desperate to belong somewhere he gets involved with some older college kids who also mock him but appear to accept him the way he is. He meets Diondra a girl well out of his league, older and smarter than him who uses him when she wants some fun. Ben takes the reader through the story from his point of view and although he can act weirdly we begin to question whether he could have murdered his family.
Libby Day Ben's little sister - 7 years old when the tragedy happened, starts the reader on the journey of unraveling just who did commit those murders. When we meet Libby 25 years have passed since the murders and her brother Ben has been in jail all those years. Now a young woman in her 30's deeply affected by what happened she has become a suspicious, complex, selfish and sometimes violent character. Flynn does not try to portray her as a victim more as a survivor who has had to cocoon herself in a hard shield. Having spent the years surviving on well wishers money she is now out of funds and must either work or find another way to keep herself. She hears of the Kill Club when one of its members contacts her for a 'guest' appearance for money and she embarks on a journey of discovery, secrets and lies that changes her life forever.
A pacey page turner of a novel, good developed characters, broken, flawed Libby, weird moody Ben and their exhausted down trodden mother all make for a satisfying read. Good secondary characters keep this little time bomb ticking along with the Gothic and dark references reflecting the period, tight knit community prejudices and opinions and the innocence of youth all coming together to make this novel work.
I like the way Gilllian Flynn pulls you in and does not let you go until she's ready.
Has to be another 4 stars for this one.