Libby Day is a survivor. She’s survived a drunken, dead-beat father, Runner, extreme poverty, and the horrific massacre of her mother, Patty, and two older sisters, Michelle and Debby. Well, maybe to call her a survivor is a stretch because Libby is reclusive and mean. She says it herself at the beginning of Gillian Flynn’s terrific novel, Dark Places.
I have a meaness 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 can stomp on it. It’s the Day blood. Something’s wrong with it. I was never a good little girl, and I got worse after the murders.
Ah, yes, the murders. For the past 24 years Libby’s older brother, Ben, has languised in prison for the crime. He was 15 when he is alledged to have killed his mother and younger sisters. Libby has never once visited him partly, perhaps, because it was her testimony that sent him there. She was seven at the time.
Now, at 30, Libby is alone, broke and desperate. That’s how she comes to accept The Kill Club’s offer. Lyle, one of the Kill Club’s members, reaches out to Libby and makes her a propostion. If she’s willing to come to a meeting and talk about the case, they’ll pay her $500. That original deal morphs into something more and suddenly Libby is revisiting the night that changed her life forever.
Gillian Flynn (right) is a new-to-me writer although everyone and their dog has likely heard about her by now due to her recent novel, Gone Girl. She started her writing career as a journalist and was the TV critic for Entertainment Weekly for a decade before turning her hand to fiction. Look at her: she’s beautiful. And scary. And it just occurred to me that her writing reminds me of one of my all-time favourite writers, Lisa Reardon. Her writing is fearless…and fear-inducing.
Dark Places unspools the Day murders in two ways: as Libby digs for the truth and as the events of the day unravel. For this, we spend time with Patty and Ben. Patty is a sympathetic character, a mom who loves her children and tries to care for them, but whose dwindling emotional and financial resources make it nearly impossible. Ben, on the other hand, is a fifteen-year-old boy in a house full of women. He’s desperately searching for a place to belong and an outlet for the anger which bubbles inside him.
Flynn skilfully weaves the threads of this story together offering the reader equal measures of horror and heartbreak. I couldn’t put the book down – that’s just about the highest praise I can give a book.