Saturday, August 08, 2009

Book: Dark Places

Confession: I began this book at 7 pm and finished it at 2 am. I could not put it down. I had to find out what happened! And, I was too creeped out to just put the book down without knowing if the things hinted at were real or not.

This is Gillian Flynn's second book, and I have to say if she continues in this vein, she is well on her way to becoming a favorite. I was delightfully horrified by her first, Sharp Objects, and that uncomfortable feeling of being thrilled at how dark the story was has been continued in this book.

This is not a nice book. The people in it are not nice. The things that happen are not nice. The setting is not nice. No, it is not nice at all.

Libby Day, now in her early 30s, was seven on the night of the murders. The night she woke up to the sounds of her mother and sisters being brutally slaughtered. She ran out into the snow to escape, and lost a few toes and fingers in the process. All these years she's stuck by her story that it was her brother who did it. After all, she heard him there that night, yelling and screaming amid the sounds of the axe falling. It was him. She was sure of it. Right? Right?

After the murders, the community was horrified and started a large collection fund for her. She's been living off this fund for years, and now it's dwindling down to almost nothing. With no skills (or desire to work), Libby has to find a way to make some cash, and fast. So when a local club of amateur crime-solvers (under the unfortunate name The Kill Club) ask her to come and speak to them (and offer to pay her cold hard cash), she accepts. The members of this club don't believe that her brother did it -- in fact, they scoff at the idea. Slowly Libby begins to question her own story... and then she's back in 1985, reliving the events leading up to that night.

This book is horrifying on many levels. The brutality of the murders is horrifying. The poverty that the family lives in is horrifying. The 'bad kids' Libby's brother falls in with are horrifying. What the author does is so skillful -- she reminds me of the best of Stephen King's early books, but without the supernatural edge. It mostly reminds me of 'salem's Lot, in the way King so accurately captures the little evils that happen every day.

I grew up in the 70s and 80s and I remember vaguely the devil-worshipping fears. I remember the Tipper Gore ruckus about heavy metal and rap music (for the record, I think the music ratings system is stupid). I grew up in a very small town that was by no means evil, but had a certain seedy underside which thankfully I stayed out of, but some of my friends and neighbors did not. There was a murder-suicide (teenagers), there was a horrific murder (middle school kids killing another middle school girl)... bad things happened. This book tapped into my memories of these bad things and how scared and sick we all were about them.

The bad girlfriend, Diondra, reminded me so well of a certain kind of horrible teenage girl which I knew so well in the 80s. My school was tiny but every school has the rich/bad kids. The ones in Guess jeans and Keds and scrunchy socks and drenched in Obsession, with shellacked bangs and frosted lipstick. The ones who made your life a living hell. Diondra was all those bad girls wrapped into one. She scared me.

Was it the work of the devil? Was it the brother? Was it a mass murderer on the loose? Who was it? Who did it? I could not stop reading. The pit in my stomach got bigger and bigger as the pieces dropped into place. This is the best kind of horrifying book. No ghosts, but monsters for sure. Human ones. Extremely satisfying if you like a good disturbing book. Also, the writing is excellent -- this is no pulp fiction.

I hope Gillian Flynn is writing another book right now -- I may be on the verge of an unhealthy obsession.

PS: She has an awesome author's statement on her website. As someone acutely aware of and interested in those dark inside places women routinely cover up (myself included), I was so glad to know that finally someone else is tired of spunky heroines. If there is no cultural outlet for the shadow side of women (or men), it comes out all twisted into reality (a certain frightening ex-Alaskan governor, anyone?).


Tammie said...

i have a little slip of paper next to the computer where I write the names of books i want to read. after reading your review of sharp objects, it was added. Looks like this one is going to be added as well. i may need a bigger slip of paper soon.

(also....after your initial review i was talking to Dawn about Sharp Objects and she found it at her library and loved it.)

Kate said...

This sounds frighteningly creepy. A good candidate for my RIP list, I think.

Daphne said...

Tammie: you gotta read it. And, you gotta watch Buffy! (re-watching them all right now. swoon.) Glad Dawn liked it!

Kate: it's not supernatural, but it's super-creepy. You will love.

daisies said...

ohhhh ... am so picking this one up ... thank you!! xo