Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

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If Dark Places and Gone Girl were sisters, the latter would be glossy haired head cheerleader, hiding complexity beneath an artful facade. Dark Places would be her angry rebel twin with grubby clothes and grungy shoes, all attitude and abrasiveness. Not that I should be comparing but it’s hard not to when Dark Places is Flynn’s forerunner.

Libby Day is a broke, damaged 30-something, living off the notoriety of being the only survivor of her family’s massacre. Accepted logic is that her brother Ben was the perpetrator, currently behind bars. When she is approached by members of a true crime fan club, she is forced (by unpaid bills) to delve deeper into her past to satisfy their curiosity- and hers.

For me, this is not a novel about murder or culpability- the thing that jumps out at me most is the sheer grind of poverty. Lack of money motivates virtually all of the characters. This depressing poverty creates a malaise in their rural community, a breeding ground for dispossessed lives and dark corners like it’s seedy dive bars, streetwalker zones, and homeless drug dens.

You can see the inception of Gone Girl here: women with a hidden life, knife-edge conversations, a dark social underbelly. It’s flimsier than Gone Girl- less tightly written, not as solidly constructed, going for the easy shocks. Almost because of this, it’s loose, raw quality makes for gripping reading as you can feel the sordidness creeping off the page.

Read: Before you have a bath to scrub the dirt from your skin

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