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Publisher's Summary

Libby Day was seven when her mother and two sisters were murdered in "The Satan Sacrifice of Kinnakee, Kansas". As her family lay dying, little Libby fled their tiny farmhouse into the freezing January snow. She lost some fingers and toes, but she survived, and famously testified that her 15-year-old brother, Ben, was the killer.

Twenty-five years later, Ben sits in prison, and troubled Libby lives off the dregs of a trust created by well-wishers who've long forgotten her.

The Kill Club is a macabre secret society obsessed with notorious crimes. When they locate Libby and pump her for details, proof they hope may free Ben, Libby hatches a plan to profit off her tragic history. For a fee, she'll reconnect with the players from that night and report her findings to the club...and maybe she'll admit her testimony wasn't so solid after all.

As Libby's search takes her from shabby Missouri strip clubs to abandoned Oklahoma tourist towns, the narrative flashes back to January 2, 1985. The events of that day are relayed through the eyes of Libby's doomed family members, including Ben, a loner whose rage over his shiftless father and their failing farm have driven him into a disturbing friendship with the new girl in town.

Piece by piece, the unimaginable truth emerges, and Libby finds herself right back where she started...on the run from a killer.

©2009 Gillian Flynn (P)2009 Random House

Critic Reviews

"Gillian Flynn is the real deal, a sharp, acerbic, and compelling storyteller with a knack for the macabre." (Stephen King)"A gritty, riveting thriller with a one-of-a-kind, tart-tongued heroine." ( Booklist)

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Riveting but brutal

Dark Places is a fascinating story but not a fun read. The book takes pity on no one, least of all it's readers. This truly is the stuff of nightmares, one sadistic chapter bleeding over into the next. Although a work of fiction, Ms. Flynn's unflinching wordsmanship embues it with the realism of a true-crime whodunit. The saving grace, for me at least, was that I could repeat the mantra, "It's only make-believe" when the scenes became a little too intense for my sensitive nature.

Although I covet Ms. Flynn's talent, I wouldn't take it at any price if it meant having to live in her head (ditto Stephen King). Dark Places is not just an aptly-named novel, but probably an apt description of the author's warped imaginings. If I knew then what I know now, I would have stopped at "Gone Girl" and skipped this one entirely. And yet, as incongruous as it seems, I wholeheartedly recommend "Dark Places", just as I recommended "Gone Girl". The reason is simple: Despite the fact that they were dark and foreboding, that certain scenes will likely haunt me for a very long time, and that I can honestly say that I don't miss the characters (no, not a single one!), I am forced to admit that I thought they were riveting from start to finish. So, while I didn't like this book, I did love it.

And now, I'm going to run, not walk, to my bookshelf and find my copy of "Little Women" or "Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm" and try to subdue some of the ghosts from "Dark Places".

181 of 194 people found this review helpful

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Gone Girl first?

If you loved Gone Girl, chances are you looked for her other titles, as did I. Don't expect the same layered mythology and larger than life characters. But, do look forward to an exciting thriller working backward from present day Libby, the lone survivor of a family massacre. Her brother's backstory is the most interesting. He is currently behind bars for the murders, and pleads innocence. Dark, engaging, and well read by the female narrators. I didn't care for the male narrator, but it didn't detract from the overall performance. Gillian Flynn is one of those rare authors who learns and improves with each novel. Gone Girl was amazing, and Dark Places a solid read. Can't wait to see what she churns out next.

150 of 168 people found this review helpful

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  • Amanda
  • Phoenix, AZ, United States
  • 06-13-12

Tragic and Unforgettable

Having just finished the author’s newest work (Girl Gone) I decided to give one of her other novels a try. What I found was a heart wrenching story of a troubled family so nuanced, so real, I’m having a hard time letting go.

There are three main voices to the narrative; Libby, in the story’s present day of 2009, narrates her struggle to feel safe and stable in the world (both financially and emotionally) as she re-opens the questions surrounding the night her family was killed. In alternate chapters, her mother Patty and her brother Ben take us back to that horrible day in the winter of 1985 that started out badly, and ended so much worse. These flashbacks are time stamped; starting in the morning, and slowly, surely, working their way to that night, and to the truth that’s been hidden for so long.

This is a story of hurt, damaged people told with gritty nuance and no sympathy for the cringing reader. No punches are pulled as the author proceeds to create a stark, uncomfortable, and painful world that engulfs you completely. Listening to this story won’t be “entertaining”, but it will be memorable.

Be aware that this book contains a lot of explicit material of all sorts; language, violence, and sexual content.

The narrators are superb (although I wish a younger sounding narrator had been chosen to represent Ben) and Libby’s voice will continue to play in your head long after you’ve stopped listening.

It’s only June, but I may have found my top novel of the year.

96 of 109 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Such crafting

First off let me address the narration, its as good as anything you'll find on the site. Next, this is a dark tale (as the name suggests--don't know why some were surprised to realize this). But dark does not mean it was a bad read. This is a poignant tale of flawed characters, with worries and concerns and heartache we can all relate to. The real gem here is Ms. Gillian. The writing is so good and the plot so cleverly crafted--I am very impressed. To write these characters faced with this situation and to get so pointedly into their heads of different ages and different genders, if you're not impressed, sit down and try it yourself sometime.

78 of 92 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • G.
  • boulder creek, ca
  • 09-20-09

chilling story

DARK PLACES by Gillian Flynn lived up to it's title, but not in the way I first expected. This is not so much a story about devil worship as it is about poverty and where it can lead under the worst circumstances. I love the protagonist, Libby Day, she is outside the box of conventional main characters. Short, plain looking, and without much of a will to do anything, she listlessly cashes checks from a fund created for her after the murder of her family. And she is mean, without apology. It is through her history that you become sympathetic, you get the feeling she never really had a chance. Even if her mother and sisters were not murdered, her brother in prison for committing the crime, you get the idea her life would have been one filled with sorrow and desperation. The Day family are poor, their clothes aren't new, the son is a janitor at his own high school. Things are okay for the girls in grade school, but the pressures of high school under such circumstances, along with a penchant for bad luck, quickly put the family on the path to total destruction. Along with this great social commentary is a pretty strong mystery. If the book was strong throughout, the ending cinched my feelings that this is a book to be had!

44 of 52 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Phyllis
  • Atlanta, GA, United States
  • 07-02-09

You won't mind the Monday morning drive to work.

The story is addictive. All of the characters are multi-layered, even the minor characters, and defy stereotypes. There is true menace throughout, coming from many directions. This is mystery writing on a level that never insults the reader's/listener's intelligence. The desperation of the adults is palpable. The pain and humiliation of the children is heart-wrenching. There is an honesty here about how people really feel, about how people really live their lives, that is too often missing. And I liked the main character. I wouldn't want her as a roommate. But her brutal honesty, and wit, were compelling. The narrators did the writing justice.
Don't miss this one.

47 of 56 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Great book

I had it figured out, I didn't have it figured out. Then I sort of had it. Then it twisted again. This was a great story and the writer is really good. I would recommend this to anyone who loves mystery/thrillers. More please!

59 of 72 people found this review helpful

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Never evolved into an enjoyable story

Is there anything you would change about this book?

I finished it to see what would happen, but it wasn't an enjoyable story. None of the characters were likable and it was just morose. The narrators were good at narrating a depressing story, but it really wasn't my cuppa.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Gillian Flynn seams to have a knack for telling a story. She is able to put you smack in the middle of the fray. I had issues with the conclusion, but not enough to say this wasn't a masterfully crafted story. Kudos to the narrators.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • cristina
  • Somerville, MA, United States
  • 07-17-12


I just sat at my office desk after I got back from lunch, mouth open, waiting for the story to end and hoping my meeting would not start early.


As the other two Gillian Flynn novels I've now read, this one takes your breath away. The sheer tragedy. The violence. The horror.

Her characters are painfully believable. Yes, this is what a little girl whose family was murdered would grow up to be like (not the charming fairy tale version). Yes, this is what a boy who is finally with a girl who makes him feel special would act like -- even if he suspects the girl is really not a nice girl, and perhaps even evil. Yes, this is how easily life can derail...and go from normal to utter madness in hours.

The coincidences that would have you taking stars out of the review for another book are actually part of the plot: they're not coincidences, they're just an overwhelming amount of bad luck -- and, yes, a family can have this much bad luck dumped on it at once.

The performances by the cast of readers are also stellar.

I'm only sorry that Gone Girl, the first Flynn novel I read, just came out. It means I will have to wait a while for the next bit of sick horror she crafts.

22 of 27 people found this review helpful