Dark Places Review

Book: Dark Places

Author: Gillian Flynn

Having read Gone Girl earlier this year, I wanted to try another Gillian Flynn novel and I decided to try this one. I was aware that it was going to be a dark book as the title obviously says but there were certain things in this book that completely creeped me out and I think some details may have been a step too far (I will elaborate on this later on). Flynn really doesn’t like sympathetic main female characters, this has become clear to me with this book because yet again the female protagonist is unsympathetic and not very likeable, in fact I don’t really think many of the characters in this book are likeable at all, except for Libby’s mother Patty (whom I felt sorry for) and her aunt Diane (who I thought was just generally quite cool).

Dark Places suffered from much the same problem as Gone Girl in that in parts it was quite slow. This book is not a fast, exciting read, it’s much more of a mystery but it was intriguing which was what kept me reading because I just couldn’t not know who killed Libby’s family. I liked the switching between the past and the present, with the three different characters of Patty, Ben and Libby because it let you build up ideas in your head as to who the murderer is. I worked out who the murderer was about halfway through the book although I didn’t see the twist coming. I also didn’t understand where the blood on Michelle’s bed sheets came from although maybe I missed the part where that was explained.

The detail where I felt Flynn went a step too far was when she was describing the main character’s brother Ben and his girlfriend and friend carrying out the satanic ritual of a cow. I didn’t think it was necessary to include this and it was so horrifyingly descriptive, I almost didn’t want to continue after reading. I’ve read plenty of gory scenes in books, but that one was just one step too far. There was also maybe a little too much sex in there for my liking and a lot of rude language. The murder scenes themselves (yes scenes) also had a little too much gory detail for my liking, although in terms of excitement they were the high point of the book. I did think it was good the way the Angel of Death (a guy who had been round states killing people) tied into the Days storyline. I liked how in the 1985 flashbacks, the misunderstandings between Ben and his mother are shown. Even though I found Libby unlikeable, I did find myself feeling a little sorry for her towards the end of the novel, which shows what a good writer Flynn is.

The ending was quite possibly the weakest part of the novel. I couldn’t believe that everything just tied up that neatly, I was expecting some massive twist or something and it just didn’t happen. Nothing ever works out that well, it just seemed too unrealistic. I thought that Patty’s actions given the dire circumstances her family were in was quite believable and the way the poverty of the family was portrayed was very well done too.

One thing I couldn’t really understand was why Diondra (Ben’s girlfriend) was even with him in the first place. She didn’t seem to like him that much and she was two grades above him, he was a geeky outsider kid and she was rich and popular so it didn’t seem as if the two of them had anything in common and I struggled to understand why they were together. I didn’t really like Ben all that much, he was obsessed with Diondra and rude to his mother and sisters but I did feel somewhat sorry for him because I thought Diondra treated him really badly and she didn’t deserve him protecting her. I liked him more in the present than in the past.

The idea of the Kill Club seemed pretty unlikely and I think it basically just served as a plot device to get Libby off her ass and start doing some detective work, I don’t think there was any real point to having it in the story.

Overall Dark Places was a somewhat enjoyable book that had it been cut maybe a hundred pages or so, it would have been extremely enjoyable as the mystery is gripping and once you get over the hump of the beginning of the book all you want to know is who the killers are. I wouldn’t say it was as good as Gone Girl but it was a decent read and Gillian Flynn is definitely a great author, this one was just a little too dark for my tastes. I will definitely read Sharp Objects though, it hasn’t put me off reading that.

My Rating: 3/5

The next book I will be reviewing is Every Second Counts, sequel to Split Second by Sophie McKenzie.

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Gone Girl review

Book: Gone Girl

Author: Gillian Flynn

This book is another one that has received a considerable amount of hype over the past year or so, with a movie adaptation of the book due later this year. I’m usually very wary of  hyped up books since they are never as good as billed, but I have to say that Gone Girl had me pleasantly surprised. It was interesting premise and a well developed book, with interesting yet flawed characters.  Here is a synopsis of the book:

Who are you? What have we done to each other?

These are the questions Nick Dunne finds himself asking on the morning of his fifth wedding anniversary, when his wife Amy suddenly disappears. The police suspect Nick. Amy’s friends reveal that she was afraid of him, that she kept secrets from him. He swears it isn’t true. A police examination of his computer shows strange searches. He says they weren’t made by him. And then there are the persistent calls on his mobile phone. So what really did happen to Nick’s beautiful wife?

I felt that the first half of the book lagged a bit-it was good for getting into Amy and Nick’s relationship but I didn’t feel like I really got interested until part two-I reckon that some of the first half could have been cut without really losing anything essential to the storyline. Diary Amy irritated me, I preferred Amy in the second half (okay I didn’t like her because she was a psycho) but I found her more interesting than her diary counterpart-the use of unreliable narrators in this book is very well done as the truth about the characters is revealed in the second half and I didn’t guess either the true nature of Amy or the secret that Nick was hiding.

The second part of the book was better-although you hated Amy, you had to admire her for how clever her plan was (I am desperately trying not to give spoilers!) and you could see why the police were gravitating towards Nick so much-although I never believed he was guilty. I liked that the book was in both the main characters perspectives as you can see the story from both sides and what each one of the main characters thinks of the other one and you get to know each of them better. I thought Flynn’s perspective on relationships was really insightful-how every guy want to find Cool Girl but she’s really just an idea they make up in their heads. I felt that as a book it was quite original, I’ve never read anything quite like it before. The book was well written and I think Flynn captured the distinctive voices of characters, particularly Amy very well, and you could see how she came to be the way she was. Nick definitely comes across as a guy who tries very hard to get everyone else to like him but he’s not the easiest character to like, none of the characters are but I didn’t mind that because both Amy and Nick were multi dimensional, developed characters.  I found the media aspect of it quite interesting as well, how the way that people are portrayed in the media is increasingly important in court cases and how the way that you are perceived by people is everything as both the characters use media to their advantage. There were moments that were great, and moments that lagged a little all the way through the book-for instance Amy in the Ozarks could have been cut because it wasn’t particularly interesting-in the second half of the book, I actually found Nick’s chapters the more interesting of the two.  You can clearly see that Flynn has done her research which I liked-I certainly would not have been able to pull off what Amy did in the book. I liked the use of the Amazing Amy books because you can see why this woman is so psychotic-she’s been brought up believing that she is perfect and so she lashes out in jealousy at anyone who picks someone else over her. The chapters particularly in the second and third parts of the book are very short, which is effective because it keeps you reading, you have to know what happens next. The fact that Nick’s sister was called Go (short for Margo) annoyed me because Go is not a real name!

The ending ruined what was otherwise a very good story-in a crime thriller, you want to see the criminal brought to justice and this just didn’t happen here-whilst I think it was important that Amy had the last word, I felt the story kind of fizzled out and it needed a more dramatic ending than we got.  I loved the use of the treasure hunt, I thought that was really well done-it doesn’t seem important when you first read about it in Diary Amy but the way Flynn uses it later on is really clever (plus the clues are so cryptic, you really can’t work them out which makes it more believable that the only one who can work them out is Nick).

It may have been slow to start off with and had a disappointing end but overall I felt Gone Girl was a good book that is worthy of the several pages of praising paragraphs shown at the beginning of the book-the whole story is essentially a complex study of these characters and their marriage, and Flynn does such a good job of writing these characters that you really feel like you know them well by the end of the book. It’s not just a crime thriller, it really is a study of relationships and you get to see that in many different ways, it’s not just the husband and wife relationship of Nick and Amy, other relationships such as the sibling relationship between Go and Nick, the relationship between Nick and his parents, the relationship between Amy and hers and even the relationship between Nick and his in laws are explored. Despite the fact that their relationship is a mess, you can really tell how well both the of the characters know the other one. The end would have worked for a series of books but not really for a stand alone. If you can get through the first part, then this book is definitely worth a read and I think I will probably read one of Gillian Flynn’s other books now.

My rating: 4/5

The next book I will be reviewing is Insurgent (the sequel to Divergent), by Veronica Roth.