Maybe you’ve read Gone Girl. Maybe you watched the film. I read the book during an uninspiring literary week and a whole lot of Oscar hype. I never ended up watching the movie.
Most people I know claim to have had their minds blown by Gone Girl. For good reason too, I realised once I started reading the book. The characters were delightful shades of grey. Some were downright dark and murky. And if you found yourself rooting for one, you soon changed loyalties, or at least caught yourself thinking of it, at some point during the book. But once it was done, and I blame the fact that I read it in the midst of a whole lot of on and offline chatter, I thought it was good, but not mind-blowing. Like, it isn’t on my list of all-time favourites in the genre. It isn’t even in the top 10, to be honest.
What did blow my mind though is Flynn’s second novel, Dark Places. Any book that spends its entirety deconstructing the build-up to a gory night in small-town America – the stuff of nightmares, this — is not a book you want to pass up. No seriously, I actually dreamed of axes and Satanic symbols painted in blood on walls two nights in a row. Could this be the 21st century version of The Shining’s flood of blood? In my imagination, it totally is!
Just like Gone Girl, we have again a set of characters who are deliciously dark with shades of grey. There’s Libby, who survived a bloody massacre that brutally killed her mother and sisters when she was 7 years old. Her brother Ben, the only person to go down for the murders even though there were several discrepancies at the murder scene. There’s Lyle, treasurer and spokesperson of sorts for the Kill Club that’s obsessively trying to find out what really went down that night. And a bunch of other very shady characters who have been constructed beautifully to give the plot depth and intrigue.
I really like Flynn’s style of writing and her knack of stitching multiple narratives together. This is actually written from three perspectives. Libby’s voice is in first person and unfolds the mystery in the present. Ben and Patty, their mom, alternate in third person, building up to the fateful ‘event’ over one single day. Flynn also weaves in intricate character details and back stories in a crafty manner that lend her novels a certain X factor that makes them impossible to put down.
Dark Places is definitely a contender for my list of most intriguing murder mysteries of all time. However, I have it on good authority that her first book, Sharp Objects is actually her best. Guess I’ll reserve my judgement until I read that one. But in good time. I want a few months of reads that are anything but fast paced thrillers to really relish this one. Mostly because I really don’t want to overdose on the genre or find myself getting Flynned out.
Also published on The Caterpillar Cafe