Friday, July 18, 2014

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

“The Days were a clan that mighta lived long
But Ben Day’s head got screwed on wrong
That boy craved dark Satan’s power
So he killed his family in one nasty hour
Little Michelle he strangled in the night
Then chopped up Debby: a bloody sight
Mother Patty he saved for last
Blew off her head with a shotgun blast
Baby Libby somehow survived
But to live through that ain’t much a life

Thus begins Gillian Flynn's second novel (the first being Sharp Objects and the third being Gone Girl).

Of the three, Sharp Objects was my least favorite. It was okay, but for a non-genre reader (I don't generally choose psychological thrillers or murder mysteries), it didn't stand out. Gone Girl I love and found incredibly compelling - a book that I would and have recommend(ed) to basically everyone. Dark Places I loved more than Gone Girl. It is obvious to see how Sharp Objects leads to Dark Places leads to Gone Girl - she explores MANY of the same ideas throughout like the role of media related to crime and perception and how to have a female character that is really unlikeable. In spite of Gone Girl's INCREDIBLE success, Dark Places is the standout novel of the three.

The premise of the book is exactly what the school rhyme says: on January 3, 1984, Michelle Day was strangled, Debby Day was hacked with a bowing knife and ax, Patty Day was shot with a shotgun - all of this presumably done by Ben Day, an outcast teenager who dabbles with Satanic rock music and had no alibi for the night of the crime. Libby Day at age 7 is the lone survivor who testifies as an eye witness at her brother's trial which puts him away for life.

The novel is written in a really interesting way that works wonderfully.
Libby Day Chapter - present time (Libby is in her 30s at this point)
Patty Day Chapter - January 2 1984
Ben Day Chapter - January 2 1984

In the present day, Libby is flat broke and has hooked up with a group of people who think Ben may be innocent and are willing to pay her to investigate. As her investigation continues in real time, taking her back to interview different people who might know something about The Night, the Ben/Patty chapters get closer to the events of The Night, and the reader gets closer to knowing the truth with all the characters.

The mystery is solid, the psychological is thrilling, the writing is good enough, and it is incredibly well researched. I watched Randy reading a picture book for satanic ritual abuse survivors, Satanic Panic: the creation of a contemporary legend, and Satan's Silence: Ritual abuse and the making of a modern American witch hunt, and we had quite a few discussions that piqued my interest. This book was an incredibly satisfying way to end our little Satanic Panic kick.

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