Dark PlacesAmazon•Goodreads•Google Books
I’ve been wanting to read this book for some time, ever since reading Gone Girl and falling in love with this author’s writing style. It’s dark, and the characters are the kind of characters who are easy to both like and dislike at the same time. She reveals important pieces of the protagonist very slowly, leaving a sort of bread trail to the great big epiphany about that character, hinting at something dark and dangerous and then skipping to the next thing. Leading the reader on, forcing the cogs to turn in our heads a little bit at a time… Spinning up new theories, trying to understand the connections as each new piece is presented.
The book starts out with an introduction to the protagonist, Libby Day, but she warns you ahead of time that she’s not much of a protagonist; she’s been a selfish bitch most of her life, living off the pity and money that people have sent her since her mother and two sisters were brutally murdered in her own home when she was seven years old. She’s used to taking advantage of people, and lashing out when people don’t treat her the way she wants to be treated. Given what she’s been through, it’s understandable, and she thrives off that exact conclusion.
The rest of this review contains spoilers, in case you’re curious.
In the first chapter, she’s told that her pity bank is finally about to run dry, and she needs to find a steady source of income. Twenty-five years of living off the charity of others is finally coming to an end, and she’s gonna need to get a job, or something. Her account manager hands her a few ‘fan’ letters, and in one of those letters is a request to attend a mysterious group meeting, with the promise of payment. Desperate for money, she calls him up and accepts his offer. An offer which, of course, provokes her to actually think about what happened that night. The group is called the Kill Club, which sounds more sinister than they actually are once you meet them. They’re mostly fans of trying to solve real crimes, and they all believe that her brother Ben, who was found guilty of the murders, is innocent. She gets defensive when accused of perjury by someone in the group, and storms off, adamant that she saw him kill her family.
Every other chapter tells a story from the point of view of a different character in the family, on the day leading up to the murders. The first ‘flashback’ is in the point of view of the mother, Patty Day. She’s worried about her son, because he’s been moodier than usual, and she has trouble connecting with him. Knowing, from the first chapter, that he is later accused of murdering his family later that day, the fact that he had been acting weird is a point against him. But of course, like every other story that starts off with the knowledge that someone’s already in prison for a crime, it’s not likely that this accusation is true. But knowing how Gone Girl and Sharp Objects ended, there’s definitely some sort of twist that should become more apparent soon. At this point, I’m not quite sure that he’s entirely innocent, but something’s not right.
So back to the present, Libby has started seriously thinking about what she heard at the Kill Club, and decides to prove them wrong. She calls up the author of the book detailing her brother’s guilt, and is immediately bombarded with apologies for jumping on the Satanic Panic bandwagon, which apparently was all the rage in the 80s, blaming Satanism for everything troubled teens did, and he certainly was a troubled teen. Libby’s confidence falters at this, and she starts to think that maybe her brother really was innocent. She decides to visit her brother for the first time, and in an effort to understand more about what happened, she reads the court transcripts, finally realizing that maybe she really was fed some false testimony. However, her takeaway from it all was that it wasn’t all her fault that he was found guilty; everything about the case went wrong, evidence ignored, crime scene tampered with, and of course Ben treating the trial like it was a joke.
And then: Ben kissed a 5th grader. Oh, boy..
So, without going into any more spoilers (since this is a review, not a synopsis), the rest of the story is full of coincidences and misunderstandings. Oh, and devil worship. By the middle of the book, Libby’s become more motivated to find out more about the murders, and not just for the cash anymore. By the end of the book, she seems to have overcome her depression, she’s made up with Diane, and she’s reconnected with her brother. All in all, a good ending, practically wrapped in a bow, like Sharp Objects.
I definitely recommend this book. Five stars.