A few thoughts on ‘Dark Places’, a novel by Gillian Flynn

March 8, 2010

When Libby Day was 9 years old she witnessed the slaughtering of her mother and 2 sisters. Or at least she hid in a cupboard whilst they were killed. The main suspect for the murder was Ben her older brother and it’s Libby’s testimony that sees him sentenced to life in prison.

 ‘Dark Places’ tells 2 stories: Libby Day, now thirty something, discovering what really happened the night her family were murdered, and the actual events of that night told from the perspective of Libby’s mother, Patty, and her brother.

 Libby’s chapters are separated by chapters set the day of murder – these then alternate between Patty and Ben’s perspectives.

 Flynn skilfully weaves the different threads into a well paced and twisting narrative that’s very satisfying. She’s got the page turning mechanics down to a fine art. The chapters articulate with absolute control so that the 2 time zones inform each other. Questions raised in the present timeline are resolved in the past and visa versa. Furthermore tension is developed without characters ever having to behave unnaturally – no characters leave a room enigmatically so they don’t have to answer important questions.

 I’ll have to admit to not entirely buying into the final big twist – that Flynn hadn’t led me to the point at which the character concerned would make the decision they do. That said it was by no means an unreasonable stretch. It’s still a great book and well worth seeking out.


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