Following Sharp Objects, I immediately began to read Dark Places, which was probably not the best choice for either my sanity or my REM cycle, but hey. YOLO. After such an amazing masterpiece that was Sharp Objects, my expectations were high. Sadly, Dark Places fell short for me, miles short of either Gone Girl or Sharp Objects. Here’s why.
The premise of the book is immediately engaging: Libby Day is a thirty-something woman who survived the slaughter of her mother and two sisters when she was only 7 years old. She famously testified that her brother was the murderer, and never looked back. Obviously, Libby is not a functioning, happy adult, and when her bank account runs dry, she discovers that there are groups of homicide-obsessed people who are willing to pay her for her memories and memorabilia. And the clincher is that they all believe—with good reason—that Libby was wrong, and that her brother, who has been in jail for twenty-odd years, is innocent. To get the money, Libby begins to question her own testimony and re-open the case. It turns into an emotional and terrifying journey for her to discover who actually did murder her entire family.
It sounds great on the back cover, but I think this book fell short because of several reasons. For one, every other chapter is a flashback to supposed-murderer Ben Day’s last 24 hours before the murder, and it’s in third-person limited. The rest of the chapters are present-day and in Libby’s first person. This makes the narrative less engaging because the reader knows so much about the events of that day, and it turns boring fast. The immediacy is removed, and the narrative becomes punctuated. It also confused me when the point of view changed so much. There’s a good way to do all this stuff, but unfortunately, Libby Day’s voice was not strong enough to make it obvious when the point of view changed. It all felt like Flynn’s voice, and that’s a problem.
Second, I guessed the ending and that frustrates me because I’m the absolute worst at guessing endings. I’m a naive and blind reader, and the fact that I guessed the ending just shows me that it was extraordinarily predictable. The murderer[s] aren’t scary, and the villain[s] are supposed to be complex but they end up being either caricatures or completely unbelievable. It didn’t feel real, and it didn’t scare me as the other two definitely did.
That said, I think if I had read this book by Gillian Flynn first, I’d have liked it better. Gone Girl and Sharp Objects just eclipse this one entirely.