Libby Day was seven when her mother and two sisters were murdered in “The Satan Sacrifice of Kinnakee, Kansas.” She survived—and famously testified that her fifteen-year-old brother, Ben, was the killer. Twenty-five years later, the Kill Club—a secret society obsessed with notorious crimes—locates Libby and pumps her for details. They hope to discover proof that may free Ben.
Libby hopes to turn a profit off her tragic history: She’ll reconnect with the players from that night and report her findings to the club—for a fee. As Libby’s search takes her from shabby Missouri strip clubs to abandoned Oklahoma tourist towns, the unimaginable truth emerges, and Libby finds herself right back where she started—on the run from a killer.
Praise for Dark Places
“[A] nerve-fraying thriller.”—The New York Times
“Flynn’s well-paced story deftly shows the fallibility of memory and the lies a child tells herself to get through a trauma.”—The New Yorker
“Gillian Flynn coolly demolished the notion that little girls are made of sugar and spice in Sharp Objects, her sensuous and chilling first thriller. In Dark Places, her equally sensuous and chilling follow-up, Flynn . . . has conjured up a whole new crew of feral and troubled young females. . . . [A] propulsive and twisty mystery.”—Entertainment Weekly
“Flynn follows her deliciously creepy Sharp Objects with another dark tale . . . The story, alternating between the 1985 murders and the present, has a tense momentum that works beautifully. And when the truth emerges, it’s so macabre not even twisted little Libby Day could see it coming.”—People (4 stars)
“Crackles with peevish energy and corrosive wit.” —Dallas Morning News
“A riveting tale of true horror by a writer who has all the gifts to pull it off.”—Chicago Tribune
"It's Flynn's gift that she can make a caustic, self-loathing, unpleasant protagonist someone you come to root for.”—New York Magazine
“[A] gripping thriller.”—Cosmopolitan
"Gillian Flynn is the real deal, a sharp, acerbic, and compelling storyteller with a knack for the macabre.”—Stephen King
About the Author
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Excerpted from "Dark Places"
Copyright © 2018 Gillian Flynn.
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What People are Saying About This
Named one of the Best Books of 2009 by Publishers Weekly
A Weekend TODAY “Top Summer Read”
The New Yorker's Reviewers' Favorite from 2009
A 2009 Favorite Fiction Pick by The Chicago Tribune
"[A] nerve-fraying thriller."
—The New York Times
“Flynn’s well-paced story deftly shows the fallibility of memory and the lies a child tells herself to get through a trauma.”
—The New Yorker
“Gillian Flynn coolly demolished the notion that little girls are made of sugar and spice in Sharp Objects, her sensuous and chilling first thriller. In DARK PLACES, her equally sensuous and chilling follow-up, Flynn…has conjured up a whole new crew of feral and troubled young females….[A] propulsive and twisty mystery.”
“Flynn follows her deliciously creepy Sharp Objects with another dark tale . . . The story, alternating between the 1985 murders and the present, has a tense momentum that works beautifully. And when the truth emerges, it’s so macabre not even twisted little Libby Day could see it coming.”
—People (4 stars)
“Crackles with peevish energy and corrosive wit.”
—Dallas Morning News
“A riveting tale of true horror by a writer who has all the gifts to pull it off.”
"In her first psychological thriller, Sharp Objects, Flynn created a world unsparingly grim and nasty (the heroine carves words into her own flesh) written with irresistibly mordant humor. The sleuth in her equally disturbing and original second novel is Libby Day....It's Flynn's gift that she can make a caustic, self-loathing, unpleasant protagonist someone you come to root for."
—New York Magazine
“[A] gripping thriller.”
"Gillian Flynn is the real deal, a sharp, acerbic, and compelling storyteller with a knack for the macabre."
“Gillian Flynn’s writing is compulsively good. I would rather read her than just about any other crime writer.”
"Dark Places grips you from the first page and doesn't let go."
“With her blistering debut Sharp Objects, Gillian Flynn hit the ground running. Dark Places demonstrates that was no fluke.”
“DARK PLACES' Libby Day may seem unpleasant company at first–she's humoring those with morbid curiosities about her family's murders in order to get money out of them–but her steely nature and sharp tongue are compelling. 'I have a meanness inside me,'she says, 'real as an organ.'Yes she does, and by the end of this pitch-black novel, after we've loosened our grip on its cover and started breathing deeply again, we're glad Flynn decided to share it.”
–Jessa Crispin, NPR.org
“Flynn returns to the front ranks of emerging thriller writers with her aptly titled new novel . . . Those who prefer their literary bones with a little bloody meat will be riveted.”
“Gillian Flynn may turn out to be a more gothic John Irving for the 21st century, a writer who uses both a surgeon's scalpel and a set of rusty harrow discs to rip the pretty face off middle America.”
—San Jose Mercury News
“The world of this novel is all underside, all hard flinch, and Flynn’s razor-sharp prose intensifies this effect as she knuckles in on every sentence. . . . The slick plotting in DARK PLACES will gratify the lover of a good thriller–but so, too, will Flynn’s prose, which is ferocious and unrelenting and pure pleasure from word one.”
—Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Gillian Flynn’s second novel, DARK PLACES, proves that her first – Sharp Objects – was no fluke. . . . tough, surprising crime fiction that dips its toes in the deeper waters of literary fiction.”
"Flynn fully inhabits Libby—a damaged woman whose world has resided entirely in her own head for the majority of her life and who is prone to dark metaphors: 'Draw a picture of my soul, and it’d be a scribble with fangs.' Half the fun of DARK PLACES is Libby’s swampy psychology, which Flynn leads us through without the benefit of hip waders."
—Time Out Chicago
“Clever, engrossing and disturbing….[DARK PLACES] should cement [Flynn’s] place in the great authors of crime fiction.”
"[D]eliciously creepy...Flynn follows 250-some pages of masterful plotting and character development with a speedway pileup of pulse-pounding revelations."
“A genuinely shocking denouement”
“Sardonic, riveting . . . Like Kate Atkinson, Flynn has figured out how to fuse the believable characters, silken prose and complex moral vision of literary fiction to the structure of a crime story. . . . You can sense trouble coming like a storm moving over the prairie, but can't quite detect its shape.”
–Laura Miller, Salon.com
“These characters are fully realized—so true they could step off the page….hints of what truly happened to the Day family feel painfully, teasingly paced as they forge an irresistible trail to the truth….Could. Not. Stop. Reading.”
“Libby’s voice is a pitch-perfect blend of surliness and emotionally charged imagery. . . . The Kansas in these pages is a bleak, deterministic place where bad blood and lies generate horrifically unintended consequences. Though there’s little redemption here, Flynn manages to unearth the humanity buried beneath the squalor.”
“Set in the bleak Midwest of America, this evocation of small-town life and dysfunctional people is every bit as horribly fascinating as Capote’s journalistic retelling of a real family massacre, In Cold Blood, which it eerily resembles. This is only Flynn’ s second crime novel–her debut was the award-winning Sharp Objects–and demonstrates even more forcibly her precocious writing ability and talent for the macabre.”
– Daily Mail (UK)
“Flynn’s second novel is a wonderful evocation of drab small-town life. The time-split narrative works superbly and the atmosphere is eerily macabre—Dark Places is even better than the author’s award-winning Sharp Objects.”
—The Guardian (UK)
“A gritty, riveting thriller with a one-of-a-kind, tart-tongued heroine.”
—Booklist, starred review
“Flynn’s second crime thriller tops her impressive debut, Sharp Objects…When the truth emerges, it’s so twisted that even the most astute readers won’t have predicted it.”
—Publishers Weekly, starred review
“The sole survivor of a family massacre is pushed into revisiting a past she’d much rather leave alone, in Flynn’s scorching follow-up to Sharp Objects . . . Flynn intercuts Libby’s venomous detective work with flashbacks to the fatal day 24 years ago so expertly that as they both hurtle toward unspeakable revelations, you won’t know which one you’re more impatient to finish. . . . every sentence crackles with enough baleful energy to fuel a whole town through the coldest Kansas winter.”
“Once in a while a book comes along that puts a new spin on an old idea. More than 40 years ago, Truman Capote took readers inside the Clutter farmhouse in Holcomb, KS, to show them what it was like to walk in a killer's shoes. Flynn takes modern readers back to Kansas to explore the fictional 1985 Day family massacre from the perspective of a survivor as well as the suspects. . . . tight plotting and engaging characters.”
Reading Group Guide
A Readers’ Guide for Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
For additional features, visit www.gillian-flynn.com.
In order to provide reading groups with the most informed and thought-provoking questions possible, it is necessary to reveal important aspects of the plot of this novel. If you have not finished reading Dark Places, we respectfully suggest that you wait before reviewing this guide.
Libby Day has been unwillingly famous since age seven—when her family was massacred, and the brother she once adored was convicted of the crimes based on her accusation. Now in her thirties, Libby finds that the donated funds in her “Baby Day” account are nearly gone, and her financial supporters have moved on to fresher crimes. After decades of avoiding responsibility and effort, Libby is in need of a job.
The project that presents itself seems like an easy way to start: a “guest star” appearance for a group of true-crime fanatics who will happily pay to pick her brain about the “Kinnakee Kansas Farmhouse Massacre.” The fact that their version of the story differs from hers is merely an annoyance at first. But as doubt begins to needle at her long-held convictions, Libby takes another look at that long-ago night, and the dark place she’s run from since childhood.
1. Did you like Libby as a character? Do you think the author intended for her to be likeable?
2. As the book shifted between points of view, did you find one most appealing, most enlightening, or most reliable?
3. Why has Libby ignored Jim Jeffreys’s advice to earn an income for so many years? Do you believe she feels she’s earned the money she’s been gifted by strangers? What is her attitude toward money?
4. Throughout the book, many characters seem to feel as though life is something that happens to them; others take a more proactive role in steering its course, often with disastrous consequences. Discuss the book’s theme of action versus reaction, investigation versus acceptance. Where does Libby’s behavior fit in this contrast?
5. Like others Libby meets during her investigation, Barb Eichel seems pleased to have been contacted, having “wondered if you’d ever get in touch.” Why did Barb wait for Libby to come to her? Did Barb do enough to remedy the harm she thinks her book has done?
6. As Lyle first brings Libby through the Kill Club gathering, he distinguishes between different types of members—role players and solvers, for instance. Do you consider these to be meaningful differences? How do the various groups make use of the club?
7. In considering the case of the missing girl Lisette Stephens, Libby thinks to herself, “There was nothing to solve . . . She just vanished for no reason anyone could think of, except she was pretty.” Do you think it’s strange that Libby considers this an uninteresting case? What does her attitude toward Lisette say about her view of her own family’s murder? Was there something to “solve” in the Days’ murder?
8. What do you make of Magda, the middle-class Kill Club member so fond of Ben, and so callous to her own son? What does her character tell us, if anything, about the Kill Club and its members?
9. One of the appealing aspects of the Day case (according to Lyle) is the role of children as instigators, victims, and unreliable witnesses. Do you see any similarities among Krissi’s accusation, Libby’s false eyewitness account, and Lyle’s role in the California fires? Were these children to blame for their mistakes? In what ways did they attempt to right the wrongs they caused?
10. “No one ever forgives me for anything,” one character says. What role does forgiveness play in Dark Places? Which characters should be more forgiving? Less?
11. What do you think of Diondra’s relationships? Why is she attracted to Ben? Why is Trey such a constant companion? Do you think she was romantically involved with Trey?
12. Patty Day frequently worries whether she is a good mother. What do you think? How does the book depict parents in general? Who do you consider the “good” and “bad” parents in the book?
13. Did you think Ben was guilty? Does the author intend for us to doubt him?
14. Why doesn’t Diane return Libby’s phone calls? What does she mean at the end of the book when she says, “I knew you could do it . . . I knew you could . . . try just a little harder”? Do you like Diane?
15. Why do you think Libby, at the end of the book, thinks twice before shoplifting? Is this reflective of a new attitude toward the world? How?
16. Do you think Ben will find Crystal? What do you imagine their reunion would be like?
17. Why do you think the author chose to set the murders on a farm? What images and themes does the heartland and farming evoke?
18. Libby is a liar, a manipulator, a kleptomaniac, and an opportunist. Does she have any redeeming qualities? Are you able to empathize with her? If so, why?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is one of the better authors that I've read in quite some time. Often the assumption with dark material is that it's made out to shock and to create a sense of morbid interactions among the main characters, but this is anything but. The story swallows you and leaves you gasping for air. The characters are fully developed and allow for you to care for their outcomes. Finally, I felt for the characters!! I found myself stopping at the end of each chapter, thinking, and then continuing on to see what the next one would unravel; digging deeper and deeper into the reasons behind the violent murders that took place almost 25 years prior. It's an intense read, but very captivating. I would recommend this book and the author to my demographic (23 years old) in a heartbeat. So, stop reading this review and buy the thing already. It's that good.
Libby Day is one of the best drawn sociopathic, near-pathetic, well-voiced characters I have read in a long while. The plot holds your attention while the Day family unravels in dysfunction. The first sentence in the book says it all. Highly recommended.
I loved this book. very well written. Finished it very quickly
Tom Wolfe asserted that "you can't go home again" and it is true that you won't be able to recapture your youth, or many friendships and relationships that only exist back in your memories, but Gillian Flynn teaches us that you can go home again, but that's not always a good thing. This is an excellent character study of a young girl who finds how easily the bad things in your youth can still haunt you in an instant. No matter how secure in an adult, professional, confident world, when confronted when the dark things from one's past, you find yourself instantly back "home" again. Think of the many episodes of talk shows where someone confronts a school bully 15 years later and finds themselves in tears. Or the reunion reality shows where the nerds instantly feel put down and unworthy in relation to the popular crowd. The mystery was good enough to keep my interest, but it wasn't the star here. Camille is the star. And she finds herself slowly unable to resist the gravity of the monsters of her youth. Ms. Flynn teases us with cliches and then pulls them out from under us, masterfully in Camille's relationships. Looking forward to the next book on my shelf by this author, Dark Places.
Libby Day was seven years old when her mother and two sisters were massacred in a blood-soaked home invasion dubbed by the press as "The Satan Sacrifice of Kinnakee, Kansas." It was Libby's testimony which put her then-fifteen-year old brother, Ben, into prison for the rest of his life for the heinous murders. I am now officially a fan of Gillian Flynn. I like my crime fiction dark and ugly, and Dark Places delivers. This novel won't appeal to everyone but if you appreciate flawed and unlikable characters, small touches of morbid humor and disturbingly gruesome violence this novel will appeal to you.
Dark Places is not for the faint of heart- it has it's moments of gore and terror, but it's so much more than cheap thrills. The narrative structure is unique and very well done- Gillian Flynn uses a pattern of first and third person, along with past and present-day narration that flows so smoothly. Even the heaviest parts of the plot are balanced out by Flynn's wit- this doesn't play out like some "gotcha!" episode of Dateline, with a cheesy voiceover just explaining how things got worse and worse... it's actually an intelligent, engrossing, and funny (if not necessarily "fun") novel. Flynn gives the reader enough clues and foreshadowing so that the reveal makes sense, which is greatly appreciated- there's nothing worse than endless red herrings and out-of-left-field plot twist. This isn't to say the novel was predictable, though- I was guessing all the way through. If you're fine with the material (and you know what to expect- the jacket description doesn't lie, this book is about brutal murders...), then I can't recommend this book enough.
I loved Gone Girl so much that I immediately bought Sharp Objects and Dark Places. Sharp Objects was OK, but disturbing. Dark Places, on the other hand, was so gross and discusting. The charaters were so vile and did the most revolting things. I can't get the images out of my head. Even though I had to finish it to see what happened, I wish I never read it. I hope the author writes more books like Gone Girl in the future (that one would make a great movie), but I'd almost be afraid to buy another one of her books because of the sick feeling Dark Places left me with.
Loved Gillian Flynn's GONE GIRL and really was hopeful that this one would be as good, but it just isn't. Still a good read, and probably my fault for reading her books in reverse order- but if you have to choose between this and GONE GIRL- hands down, choose GONE GIRL.
I finished this book in about 3 days of non stop reading. I literally could not put it down. Every character was genuinely interesting and I couldnt wait to get to the next chapter to find out what had actually happened to her family. The book has you thinking that it could be this person, no its defintely this person, or could it be.... I HIGHLY recommend this and am already decided what I should read next from Gillian Flynn,
I have read both this book and Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn and can definitely say she has a flair for creating very unique characters. I was a little put off from the main character in Sharp Objects because of the nature of the main character's quirks, but in Dark Places I didn't have that problem. Great story, very well written, kept me engaged from start to finish, which is about all you can ask for from a good book.
I finished reading "Gone Girl" in 3 days, and was so blown away that I went right out and got "Dark Places"...and read it in 3 days as well!!! Now, I am left with a Gillian Flynn obsession!! Although I slightly preferred "Gone Girl", this was an amazing read as well. It was dark, and twisted, and wholly satisfying! I am reading "Sharp Objects" now, although I am not breezing through it as effortlessly as the other two. Gillian Flynn writes with such a clever voice, and always leave you wondering what is going to happen next!! I actually can't wait to see what SHE comes up with next!! 5 stars!!
Loved Gone Girl and Sharp Objects, but hated Dark Places. Relentlessly bleak and gratuitously gross- out, without one likeable character. I know lots of people loved it, but I found it the reading equivalent to licking the bottom of an ashtray.
disturbing and entertaining
If you buy a book based off reviews like I do, then just get this book. Its dark, twisted, and worth every cent. Its well written and keeps you turning the pages.
I'd been searching for a GOOD book that I could not put down for quite some time. This book delivers from page 1!
This book kept me constantly wanting to read more. What a great author. I was so disappointed when I finished it, I had to find another of her books to read. I then purchased and read Sharp Objects. Wow. Another great story. I am now starting Girl Gone and hope there is another to read when I'm finished. All by this author leaves me wanting MORE!!!!!
After reading "Sharp Objects" I was hooked, after reading "Dark Places" I am a fish caught. Gillian Flynn is an amazing writer.
I got this book recently-and once I started reading it, I couldn't put it down! The story was original and very well written. The ending was a shock for me, which hardly ever happens! The characters were well written, and the plot had a lot of great twists and turns. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for a great and suspenseful story.
This is a murder mystery and thriller involving the massacre of the Day family--the mother, Patty, and two of her three young daughters--a crime for which her teenage son Ben was convicted. There are two basic narrative strands. It begins present day with Libby Day, the youngest daughter of the Day family and the sole survivor of that massacre twenty-five years ago when she was seven, told in first person. That narrative involving her investigation of what happened decades ago alternates with the third person narrative of Patty and Ben on that fateful day. I know several people who don't like first person. All I can say is this book dearly needed it. Libby is, at least at the beginning, a very unlikeable character. At thirty-one she's never held a job and is an admitted thief, "mean" and "lazy." But the first person helps her gain sympathy, because whatever else she is, at least she's honest about herself, maybe even harsh. Along with her sharp, black humor it's her saving grace. And in the course of the book we not only get to understand the trauma inflicted on her that day her family was slaughtered, but the damage inflicted by the people surrounding her, making her behavior more understandable. She speaks of having grown up "feral" and her father, among others, are far, far worse than she proves to be. She does have good reason to feel bitter. Judged purely as a mystery, this doesn't work. There is a lot of the resolution that just clicks so well in a lock/key fashion--but other aspects that I found too far fetched, even ridiculous. This is also a gritty, dark, sometimes sordid tale that a couple of times made me literally nauseous. However, it's a compelling, even gorgeous prose style, well-paced and often suspenseful and I wasn't tempted for one minute to leave the story unfinished.
Unnecessary use of bad language, just for the hell of it. Dark, graphic. I wasnt a fan. I decided to read this book because Gone Girl was fairly entertaining, if not predictable, but I won't be reading more from this author.
I have been on a Flynn binge and read all her books this summer, followed by the movies. I cannot wait for Sharp Objects to get on tv.
I gave this rating because she is a good writer and the
Dark, but kept me constantly wanting more
This book kept me guessing and the ending took me completely by surprise. It did take a little bit to get used to the chapters switching between the past and present, but it was necessary for the story to come together.
Couldn't stop reading! It was amazing!!