Book Review: Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

Dark Places

Gillian Flynn is one of those authors I’ve been wanting to read for years. I feel like she kind of exploded with Gone Girl, and everyone was talking about her a few years ago. The only problem with reading that book is that, because it’s been so popular, I’ve had pretty much everything in that book spoiled for me. So I wanted to read another of her books, one that was still popular and well-liked, but one that I didn’t have anything spoiled for.

So I found this one. It’s been on my TBR for a while, though I completely forgot I even put it on there. I went into it knowing absolutely nothing about it except the synopsis on Goodreads. And, while I do want to give Flynn another chance, I’m not sure if her writing style is for me.

Release: 2009

Synopsis: In 1985, seven-year-old Libby Day’s mother and two sisters were brutally murdered and she herself barely escaped into the frozen night. At the time, she testified that it was her fifteen-year-old brother Ben who was the murderer, tied to a twisted satanic ritual. Twenty-five years later, Libby’s life has been difficult. She’s haunted by her past, never fully able to pull herself away even when she tries to forget. That is, until a club for people obsessed with true crime called the Kill Club hires her to investigate her family’s murders and she begins to realize her brother may not have been guilty.

Non-Spoiler Review

On one hand, I really enjoyed the mystery and Libby’s perspective. She’s a messed up character, but really understandable. She has deep flaws and psychological issues. And yet, she makes for a perfect protagonist. I loved following along with her as she goes to meet the ghosts of her past. Unfortunately, I really didn’t like the flashbacks to the past, which was like nearly half the book. Whether it was in Ben’s perspective in 1985 or Libby’s mother Patty Day’s, I found that it harmed the story more than helped. We were finding out things that Libby wasn’t finding out, so there was this weird pace between what the flashbacks told us and what Libby knew, which didn’t always line up. This really decreased my liking of this book, because without that this book would have been at least a 4 star for me.

There is also a lot of swearing and foul language. This is completely my own personal taste in books, so another person may not mind it. And I like to think I can endure a lot of swearing, but the twisted perversion of Ben and his girlfriend Diondra’s language was truly disgusting to me. There were actually times I had to put down this book because it got so bad, but I always picked it up again because I just had to know how it ended.

I think a lot of the flashbacks felt cheep, like let’s show the readers what really happened so I don’t have to actually work to weave revelations into Libby’s perspective. Because of this, most of the plot twists just felt disappointing, though there was one really good plot twist (which I’ll get to in my spoiler section). There was also some topics/side-plots in the book which seemed interesting and ended up leading nowhere (again, spoilers).

I liked Libby’s perspective a lot and the ending, while I take some issue with it, was satisfying for the most part. I just felt like there was so much pointless content which added nothing to the story.

But let’s get into spoilers so I can rant just a bit.

Spoilers Ahead!

There is a lot that happens in this book, mostly in the past. And some of it just made no difference to the story and felt pointless. Like young girls claiming that Ben had sexually assaulted them. This is a very serious topic, especially the idea of false sexual allegations (because the girls were all lying) and yet it’s handled so poorly. It doesn’t change the story, because the murder overshadows it. Nothing comes of it, because Ben is arrested for the murders anyway. Diondra, his girlfriend, finds out and nothing happens. Patty Day, his mother, finds out, gets upset, but nothing comes of it because she’s murdered that night. It’s such a pointless subplot which could have been handled really well!

Another pointless subplot was the satanic stuff, which I still have no idea what happened with that. There’s this horrific scene the night of the murders were Diondra and Ben brutally kill a cow in this weird cult ritual (which I almost decided to DNF the book there because I cannot handle when animals are hurt). And earlier Patty finds Ben’s journal with twisted, satanic drawing in them. The only problem is, we don’t actually find out more and, again it has no baring to the plot and feels randomly inserted with no conclusion.

Speaking of Diondra, now we reach the biggest plot twist that I actually enjoyed. Diondra got pregnant with Ben’s child and they were planning to run away together the night of the murders. Michelle Day, the oldest child after Ben, sees them and notices Diondra is pregnant. So Diondra promptly strangles her to death. I love this plot twist, especially when Libby finds out when visiting Diondra and seeing her brother’s now adult daughter. When adult Diondra finds out Libby knows, she and her daughter try to kill her and I love the escape scene, as it mirrors the one Libby took as a child when her mother and sisters were murdered.

But now we get to the big reveal I didn’t like that I thought was incredibly stupid. Patty Day, the mother, hires a man to kill her (a type of suicide) so that her children can get the insurance money, since the family is broke. Unfortunately, the man kills her and the second daughter witnesses it, so he kills her with an ax. Thus, the killer in a completely random person who means nothing to the story up until the end. And I hate stories that pull out a random person as the killer. It’s honestly lazy writing.

I did really like Libby finally feeling free from the ghosts of her past in the end, and finding closure in learning the truth.


I ended up giving this book 2 stars on Goodreads, though I’m still contemplating changing it to 3 stars. It’s an interesting book, though I didn’t always like Flynn’s writing choices. The book was imperfect, but it could have been worse. I’m curious to see the movie adaptation they made to see if I would enjoy it better in movie format.

Anyway, have you read this book? Or any other by Gillian Flynn? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments, follow my blog for more musings and, as always,

Best wishes in your life full of adventure,

Madame Writer

9 thoughts on “Book Review: Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

  1. I can barely remember my experience with this book but I do remember being baffled by some of its elements. I read it as a prelude to Flynn’s more popular work, Gone Girl. But after reading it, it made me ambivalent. The suspense was good though and perhaps the only thing that appealed to me about the book.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I read a short story of hers that turned me off to her as a writer forever. Some may consider all that cursing and choice of foul subjects to be ‘gritty realism’, but I dismiss it all as nihilism. And I loathe nihilism.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah…I’m not a huge fan of nihilism too. Though I want to give her writing a good shot, because I know a lot of people love her books. I may try reading another book or two of hers before giving up.


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