Fictional true crime done right {Dark Places by Gillian Flynn}

Fictional true crime done right: dark and twisted

About Dark Places by Gillian Flynn: 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.

My two cents

I have a meanness inside me, real as an organ. Slit me at my belly and it might slide out, meaty and dark, drop on the floor so you could stomp on it.
Can someone say Truman Capote? Reading Flynn’s Dark Places, I had nostalgic twinges of reading In Cold Blood. I know this is fictional crime, but hey, it felt absolutely horrific getting into the minds of killer, survivor, witness. I felt myself flailing internally to keep reading. But Flynn had a disturbingly tight hold on me and I soldiered on to the end to find out the truth of The Satan Sacrifice Murders.

Libby is messed up. But she has every right to be - she survived the murder of her mother and two sisters by her older brother, Ben, 25 years ago. Cruelly, she was the one who had put her only surviving family member in jail for life. Libby is unable to hold jobs, and was living on funds donated by sympathetic do-gooders. With a failed book deal and funds running dangerously low, Libby milks any possibility of money to survive.

Enter the Kill Club, a group of people morbidly interested in high profile, notorious crimes. Libby is thrust into a precarious dilemma as she realizes that the club believes that Ben is innocent and she is practically accused of providing false testimony. Looking back, she realizes that she was coached in court since age seven, and as alternative theories and evidence are presented to her, Libby starts to question her own memories. The hope that maybe, just maybe, things aren’t what she thinks.

Why I liked this:

It’s got the Flynn trademark all over it. This is dark, twisted and sickening. It’s about a violent and gory massacre. It’s about perverse minds. It feels gritty, trashy, seedy, dirty, crude. And I feel the same way, a dirtiness on me that I don’t want. But, why oh why, does it all come together so well that you can’t put it down despite wanting to turn away and read something sunnier? Again I say it: Flynn is a brilliant and provocative storyteller.

Libby and the cast of characters. Flynn does it again with aplomb by giving us the flawed Libby as the centre of the story. Flynn never fails to deliver on interesting characters: Libby is severely damaged, troubled, selfish, crude, unlikable; she's not someone I’d care to know in real life. But she is relatable and realistic. The trauma she experienced as a child understandably has warped her in serious ways but I love her for her can-do survivor spirit.

The other characters are also flawed, unlikable and realistic. I was torn in believing Ben to be innocent but as the story moved along, his darkness slowly came through. Patty’s fierce sense of family resonated with me and her desperation for keeping her family financially afloat lends a rather odd mundanity to the massacre. The two sisters, while children, were painted as less than innocent. One standout character to me that links Libby to her family to the present is her aunt Diane. As the host characters walk through these pages, more and more you come to realize that people are inherently perverse, and that’s just the fact of the matter.

Multiple viewpoints and impeccable pacing. Propelling the storytelling is that this is told from different points of view as well as being paced for revelations to come to light at just the right time. This deftly voices out Libby (present day), Libby’s older brother Ben (1985) and their mother, Patty (1985). The massacre that transpired on that fateful day in 1985 becomes a pivot point for Ben and Patty to provide their own accounts, their sometimes chilling state of mind in their motivations.

Uh oh’s

If you’ve read Flynn, you already know that this is not a book for everyone because of its dark themes. It has graphic violence and gore, perverted sex, and depicts molestation and abuse.


I’ve now read the Flynn trilogy of dark, twisted goodness. Seriously, if this review of Dark Places doesn’t convince you that she is worth your while, check out my reviews of Gone Girl and Sharp Objects.

With true crime a hugely popular genre in film and books, I’ve no doubt this one will grab the attention of fans.

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© guiltless readingMaira Gall