three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
41-July-Aug-2009
user_rating: 
0

A-Dark PlacesSharp Objects ( 4 of 5 Stars Selection Jan/Feb 2007), Gillian Flynn’s debut novel, won Britain’s Dagger Award and was an Edgar Award finalist.

The Story: In 1985, when Libby Day was seven, her family was killed in their Kansas farmhouse. Coached by adults, Libby testified that she saw her older brother, Ben, butcher her family, and he was sent to prison for life. Twenty-five years later, Libby—with a quickly disappearing trust fund—is approached by the Kill Club, a society obsessed with famous murders. She agrees to investigate her family’s deaths for the club members—none of whom believe her brother was the murderer—and to profit from their interest in her story. As Libby reconstructs the events surrounding the tragic murders, she starts to address the shocking truths about her family’s deaths.
Shaye Areheart. 368 pages. $24. ISBN: 0307341569

Chicago Sun-Times 4 of 5 Stars
"Sure, we want to learn who the real killer is, but at some point (early on), we find that what really has us turning the pages isn’t a need to know more about the murders so much as an aroused curiosity about Libby’s soul returning to life, about how she is slowly facing herself and her two worlds—the world that could foster such a crime, and the world she manufactured to survive its fallout." Randy Michael Signor

Cleveland Plain Dealer 4 of 5 Stars
"Flynn also evokes [Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood] in the way the town revises history to believe something always had been suspicious about the Day family, and about troubled, teenage Ben in particular. … The slick plotting in Dark Places will gratify the lover of a good thriller—but so, too, will Flynn’s prose, which is ferocious and unrelenting and pure pleasure from word one." Paula McLain

NY Times Book Review 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Love her or loathe her, Libby Day won’t be forgotten without a fight. … If there’s a conscious theme here, it has to do with children who cause ‘something to happen, something that got bigger than they were’ and the chaos that follows when no responsible adults are around." Marilyn Stasio

Entertainment Weekly 3 of 5 Stars
"Alas, it would be easier to feel for Ben if his plight were just a tiny bit less horrible. … As this propulsive and twisty mystery unfolds, malefactors multiply, and they skew heavily young and female." Jennifer Reese

Critical Summary

Critics agreed that with the publication of Dark Places, Flynn’s success with Sharp Objects was no fluke. Here she crafts a compelling protagonist—a troubled, self-proclaimed liar who embarks on a painful journey of self-discovery and redemption. Many reviewers praised Flynn’s sophisticated narration: the novel alternates between Libby’s adult voice and those of her brother and mother on the day of the murders. If a few too many female villains and some clumsy plotting mar the flow, never mind; most readers will enjoy this "soul quest, the tale of a woman’s coming to terms with herself and with the consequences of her selfish, childish, fearful choices"—and will look forward to Flynn’s next offering (Chicago Sun-Times).