Written by: Kelly Deneen
I’m not one for horror movies or nightmarish novels that keep me up at night, but I do love a good suspenseful novel that hooks me with every page. Since Covid began, I’ve realized that I can’t focus on reading for very long, which leaves me disappointed. I need novels that will pique my interest for longer than ten minutes, or ones that I can’t put down.
As a result, I was happy to find that the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn, has a thriller called Dark Places. The narrative centers on a woman named Libby whose family was murdered one night when she was a little girl. She and her brother Ben survive, but her brother ends up in prison, accused of the crime. As a result, Libby sets out to uncover what really happened that night of the crime, and why she was the one to escape. In the novel, Ben is accused of being a Satanist, which creates paranoia in the small farm town where they live. In addition to this tense subject matter, Flynn creates tension with a non-chronological plot that moves back and forth between the present day and the days leading up to the murders. The reader is gripped by the narrative because she has to re-evaluate who can be trusted and who is in the wrong each time a shift in time period reveals more evidence.
Published in 2009, Dark Places became a New York Times bestseller, as did Flynn’s other novel Sharp Objects, and later Gone Girl. Gillian Flynn grew up in Kansas in the 1980s, which became the inspiration for the setting of the novel. In an interview with Reader’s Digest, Flynn discusses the darkness of her characters. As she puts it: “I’m really drawn to characters that are not likeable. I’m not sure why but perhaps I have a lot of people that are likeable in my life so when I read I’m always more interested in darker characters. I’ve also never been interested in the person who’s at the centre of a situation but I’m drawn to the person a little bit off or struggling. And to me the struggle to be good is much more interesting than the goodness itself”. Rated 4 out of 5 stars by Goodreads users, Dark Places is sure to keep readers hooked onto every page.