So basically the story is broken up into 2 parts- the present and the past. In the present story we follow Libby who has always believed as a child she witnessed the murder of her family- committed by her older brother Ben. When we read the story set in the past we are following Libby's mother, Patty and Ben himself during the day and night of the murders.
Libby begins to doubt her original belief about the murders and sets out to find the truth about what happens that day.
So currently having read, all 3 of Gillian Flynn's novels I have to say, I have loved them all, but "Dark Places" is my favourite. I have also always loved books written from a multiple character perspective and written from a first person viewpoint (as it is when we are reading the Libby Day portions of the book).
Flynn captures the mood of the book immediately- it literally transports you to the "darkplace". It is dark and descriptive, and from the first paragraph on I could not put the book down. I was captivated by the story and the characters, however I was also deeply disturbed by a lot of the content. Because the book cleverly flips from present to past it gives you a look at the Day family, the relationships and what led up to the murders. As a reader you kind of feel that you are getting the inside scoop- as Libby investigates what actually happened through the course of her childhood as well as what happened that day, the portions of the book written in the past through Patty and Ben's perspective are also describing to the reader what actually happened- you feel as though you are on the verge of being one step ahead of Libby through a lot of the book.
I felt like at certain times of the book all 3 primary characters had both protagonist and antagonist qualities. Libby, Ben and Patty are all characters you are equally rooting for and getting pissed off at. You feel like they could all be the hero's of the story at certain points and also very much the villain's at many more points.
Libby is depressed, pathetic and mean. You hate her because she is completely unaware of how to live her life, to take ownership of it and her endless excuses (real or imagined) of why she is the way she is. You are rooting for her because of all the horror she has gone through. Because of all the above reasons you feel sorry for her. Libby is repeatedly described as being extremely small, which I think is done to reinforce Libby being stunted (in looks and in life) since the day of the murders when she is seven years old, another reason you pity her. Also when you are reading as Libby, because of the first person style- you ARE Libby, therefore making the the reader able to relate her.
Ben is the screw up of the family. The murders take place in the 80's, right in the height of the goth, heavy metal, demon and Satanism era, and Ben is that character. He is making waves as a teenager coming into his own and for about half the book you feel for Ben, thinking he is just a typical teenager with a shitty life caught in a bunch of misunderstandings. When Ben is described as an adult you don't necessarily like him but you don't see him immediately as a murderer either. As you hit the climax of the book you are still hoping Ben will man up but he just doesn't and BAM- insert disturbing content- and your view on Ben drastically changes.
Patty is my least favourite character in the book. She is a stereotypical single mom who has four kids due to her own stupidity, an asshole ex husband that she predictably lets back into her life virtually every time he shows up and just can't make ends meet. Characters like this drive me nuts- but she is well written and I guess the fact that she drove me nuts proves a point in the quality of Flynn's writing. Now I don't feel in anyway that Patty is the hero or protagonist of the novel, however in the moments leading up to her murder and the actual point of her murder, I believe that SHE feels she is the hero of the story- or rather she is trying to be the hero of her story.
The secondary characters are also well written, and although non of them have hugely written roles in the novel (the sisters, Lyle, Diondra, Trey, Crystal, Krissi, Runner, Diane) they are all written with enough detail and information you form a bit of a connection with them as well. They all have a specific purpose to the outcome of the story and are every bit as relevant as the central characters- and strangely enough they too are characters you love to hate.
Like Gillian Flynn's other novels, it does keep you guessing until the almost end how the story is going to come together, however once all is revealed, you realize this novel is littered with clues. It still kept me reasonably surprised at the end, but Flynn's novel "Gone Girl" had a far more shocking twist.
Did I like the ending to "Dark Places"? Yes. Absolutely. If you are a very thorough reader who is wanting to figure out the ending- you probably did. And that's not a bad thing. This novel has the ability for the reader to genuinely figure out at least one part of the ending where as sometimes in order to figure out an ending you just have to pluck things out of thin air.
"Dark Places", like "Gone Girl" is also set to be a movie this year. If it is done to the quality and likeness of the book as "Gone Girl" was it will be a great book to adapt to the screen. And if it is as graphic as "Gone Girl" was- prepare to be far more disturbed as well. "Gone Girl" was more psychologically disturbing while "Dark Places" is far more violently disturbing.
There are pieces of the book that are not all tied up in a neat bow which will lead the movie audience to question a sequel, and maybe that is the intent. What happens (if anything) between Libby and Lyle? Where is Crytsal? What about Ben's future and does he ever connect with Crystal? These questions may be forever unanswered.
All in all I loved it- I don't know how you couldn't. 5 out 5? Hell yes.
I sure hope Gillian Flynn has more novels to pump out, because she is a genius.