Book Review: “Dark Places” by Gillian Flynn

My first audiobook of 2021! I was a little nervous when I started this one because I didn’t realize how DARK it was. I was nervous that something dark and heavy maybe wasn’t the best way to start off a new year. However, it ended up being really gripping and I enjoyed it immensely. I don’t read mysteries/thrillers that often, but I really love books that keep me on the edge of my seat and are unpredictable.

Spoiler-Free Review: “Dark Places” is a dark thriller in which a young girl is the lone survivor of a family massacre (believed to have been committed by her older brother). The characters were complex and deeply unlikable, but also unpredictable and compelling. I came up with many theories as to who really did it as I was reading, and none of my theories ended up being correct. Which I loved! It was dark, creepy, and incredibly unsettling at times. While it wasn’t quite as memorable as “Gone Girl,” it is still one that will stick with me, and one that made me think about the ending long after I finished reading it.

Below you will find a more thorough review containing my thoughts about the book. If you’re wanting to avoid any spoilers, you are welcome to jump to the TL;DR summary at the bottom of the page if you’d prefer!

“Dark Places” by Gillian Flynn
Dark Places (novel) - Wikipedia
  • Year of Publication: 2009
  • Genre: Mystery/Thriller
  • Summary:

    Libby Day was seven when her mother and two sisters were murdered in “The Satan Sacrifice” of Kinnakee, Kansas. She survived—and famously testified that her fifteen-year-old brother, Ben, was the killer. Twenty-five years later, the Kill Club—a secret secret society obsessed with notorious crimes—locates Libby and pumps her for details. They hope to discover proof that may free Ben. Libby hopes to turn a profit off her tragic history: She’ll reconnect with the players from that night and report her findings to the club—for a fee. As Libby’s search takes her from shabby Missouri strip clubs to abandoned Oklahoma tourist towns, the unimaginable truth emerges, and Libby finds herself right back where she started—on the run from a killer.

Format: Audiobook (Narrated by Rebecca Lowman, Cassandra Campbell, Mark Deakins, and Robertson Dean)

Themes: Be careful who you trust. Family isn’t perfect. Everyone has secrets.

Character Development: I thought Libby’s (the main character) character development was great. She starts out selfish and completely untrusting, and as the story continues she becomes less apathetic and a little more open to life and the people who are trying to help her.

Plot/Pacing: The pacing of the story was perfect. The mystery unravels little-by-little, making it really suspenseful and engaging. It also kept taking darker and darker turns, some of which made me legitimately uncomfortable but in a way that was intriguing; I just had to know more so I could make sense of all of it.

Writing Style: This was a really well-written story! Perhaps the most noteworthy aspect of the writing style was the fact that it’s told primarily from three perspectives: Libby (in the present-day), her mother, and her brother (both in the 80s in the time leading up to the murders). I felt this really added suspense because it gave us a variety of new details in small doses each chapter, so the reader can start piecing together the mystery. It would also happen that one thing was revealed or discovered (usually by Libby), and then suddenly we’d be switching to another character and have to wait to learn more. Sometimes this can be frustrating if it’s not executed well, but in this case it just added to the intrigue and suspense!

“Bingeability”: Moderate. I did binge-read the end of the book because I just had to know who did it. However, because of the dark tone of the story, I’m saying overall it has a moderate level of bingeability, because it’s a little too heavy to take in all at once.

Emotional Investment: Moderate. I definitely cared about Libby getting answers and closure, but almost all of the characters were so deeply unlikeable that it was difficult to become more invested in their lives and stories.

Windows and Mirrors: Kansas. Dysfunctional families. Single-parent household. Economic/financial struggles. Survivor’s guilt.

Overall Thoughts: I really enjoyed this book! The only thing keeping it from being a full five stars for me is the ending. I didn’t mind the ending to the murder mystery part (which I won’t spoil here!), but I did feel like things weren’t quite wrapped up well enough when it comes to her brother, Ben. I felt that his motives and reasoning for his decisions were never fully explained, and his role in the events was never fully acknowledged by him or Libby.

Recommendation: Yes, I absolutely recommend this book. It was thrilling and unpredictable and it kept me engaged the whole time!

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

TL;DR:
Year of Publication: 2009
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Summary: Libby Day was seven when her mother and two sisters were murdered in “The Satan Sacrifice” of Kinnakee, Kansas. She survived—and famously testified that her fifteen-year-old brother, Ben, was the killer. Twenty-five years later, the Kill Club—a secret secret society obsessed with notorious crimes—locates Libby and pumps her for details. They hope to discover proof that may free Ben. Libby hopes to turn a profit off her tragic history: She’ll reconnect with the players from that night and report her findings to the club—for a fee. As Libby’s search takes her from shabby Missouri strip clubs to abandoned Oklahoma tourist towns, the unimaginable truth emerges, and Libby finds herself right back where she started—on the run from a killer.
Themes: Trust. Family. Secrets.
Character Development: Strong.
Plot/Pacing:
Suspenseful and unpredictable.
“Bingeability”:
Moderate.
Emotional Investment:
Moderate.
Windows and Mirrors:
Kansas. Dysfunctional families. Single-parent household. Economic/financial struggles. Survivor’s guilt.
Overall Thoughts:
Some minor issues with how things were wrapped up at the end, but overall it was a solid thriller! Unpredictable and suspenseful all the way through.
Recommendation: Yes
Rating:
4.5 out of 5 stars

Thank you for reading my review! Leave a comment letting me know if you’ve read this one or have any questions about it, and keep an eye out for my next review!

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