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Haruki Murakami, Philip Gabriel
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Dark Places: A Novel

Dark Places - Gillian Flynn Dark. Disturbing. Chaotic. Crazy.This past week I’ve been on a Gillian Flynn kick, ever since a whim led me to SHARP OBJECTS and I found myself undeniably hooked. I caved and bought DARK PLACES despite my ban on books not from the thrift store (and GONE GIRL is on its way). I tore into it and immediately ran into a little problem…I was…disappointed?It’s hard to accept when a book you thought would be amazing fell short of being amazing. DARK PLACES has an unfortunate issue – it drags in the area of 75 pages toward the beginning, 75 pages that carry on for what seems like forever, filled with unneeded story that doesn’t contribute to the story. But once you get over this hump, and once these random aspects begin to make sense, the story picks up and sends you down that trademark Gillian Flynn roller coaster of bleakness, darkness, meanness, evilness, and nessy-ness.In DARK PLACES, we follow Libby Day, the survivor of a horrific crime that took the lives of her mother and two sisters. Her brother was convicted of the crimes and sent to prison. She’s been living off the money given to her by well-wishers she takes advantage of – or tries to, at least. She supplements this by stealing things for the thrill of it. Twenty five years later, though, she is tracked down by a club that wants to prove Ben’s innocence. This leads Libby down a dark road back into a time she wanted to forget, back to her brother, the possible suspects, and the night where she almost died.If you haven’t read my review of SHARP OBJECTS, you might want to browse over it to get an idea of what you might be expecting from Gillian Flynn if you’re a newbie. I don’t know how Ms. Flynn does it, but her stories are some of the darkest, most disturbing tales you’ll ever read. The characters are depraved and dark, and even the heroes have their own disturbing secrets that rear their ugly heads.Libby is one of the most flawed protagonists I’ve ever met. After losing her family, she’s become quite evil herself. She steals, she lies, she hurts. She spent the rest of her childhood being passed around like rotten meat. But I must admit, I kind of liked her. Despite her flaws, she had determination. The cast of characters around her, though, isn’t as fully fleshed out. Her brother Ben in particular seemed rather lifeless. The motivations for others were never really fleshed out. I did, however, find myself enjoying the money-grubbing Runner, Libby’s destitute father. But the bubbles of suspicion kept me hanging on, analyzing every character for clues, and even with that, I didn’t really guess the killer. When we got to the end, finally picking back up from the slow parts, I ripped through the pages desperately for clues and hints and then finally got to the end and went…“OHHHH!”The conclusion seems a little rushed, with many threads left open, but that’s okay with this story. It’s not supposed to be happy. It’s just supposed to be an ending to a thrill ride of a story that takes us across three states and 25 years. It’s a story about the darkness of humanity, the bleakness of poverty, the aftereffects of crime on a person and the damaged inflicted on them. To me, it was also about self-discovery – realizing that after all this time that you might have been wrong is a powerful subject.I wish there had been more about the investigation of the murders and the trial that convicted Ben, but I can see why Flynn omitted that. The writing was spot on and descriptive, just the way I like it. This story was almost perfect, with the exception of the slowness and pacing issues. Flynn has proven herself to be one of my new favorites and I cannot wait to dive into GONE GIRL very soon.VERDICT: Although it’s a bit slow at times, DARK PLACES is a worthy addition to Gillian Flynn’s works. It’s dark, disturbing, and chaotic – and a definite must read.