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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The novel uses three different narrative timelines. The first chapter describes the novel’s present, the second describes about 6 months earlier, and the third describes an incident from the protagonist’s childhood (the night of the house fire in which his grandfather dies). The next chapter goes back to the present and the cycle repeats throughout the novel. There are some great American shows at the moment that use similar techniques to great effect, Lost is one that springs to mind. 

 I’m writing the second chapter and so am grappling with the interplay between the three timelines. Each timeline will inform events in the others – generally questions and ideas raised in one timeline will be answered or at least furthered. For example, in the first chapter the protagonist fakes a break-in to the mansion-house; in the second chapter (set 6 months earlier) we are given a snippet of information about why he faked the break-in. It has to be just enough to prevent confusion but raise a few more questions.

 Making sure the timelines fit together feels like playing an intricate Chinese puzzle. Sometimes it feels more like playing Kerplunk – as you mess around with one thread you’ve constantly got your eye on how the rest of the thing will be affected. I had better end this analogy here before I start writing about marbles dropping.

 Stephen King talks about the ‘boys in the basement’ as that part of your sub conscious where stories develop beyond your awareness. I have always been a believer in this description of the creative process. It amazes me how seemingly disparate things suddenly come together, seemingly incidental details from one thread suddenly become vital reference points for an earlier thread – like those boys had it in mind all along.

 I’m not one for having conversations with my characters like some writers talk about. Certainly lines of theirs will come to me and these lines may then develop into exchanges between characters. I reckon it’s just more of the boys’ work behind the scenes