Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Dark Places: A NovelI finished Dark Places: A Novel by Gillian Flynn. When I first picked it up in an airport bookstore, I was a little skeptical. A story revolving around the lone survivor of a family massacre reuniting with key figures for money? It sounded tawdry. I left the book in the store that day. Later, I did buy it, and it sat on the shelf for months, but needing to procrastinate grading was the perfect reason to pick it up.

The premise sold on the promotional copy really didn't do the book justice at all. I thought the book quite well-done. My favorite kind of book: a literary thriller that will never make it in a mass market edition. (So often, with mysteries, the number of copies sold is inversely related to the quality of the writing.) I was interested in the characters and fairly fascinated by their motives. Although the main character, Libby Day, wasn't exactly likable, I found myself liking her anyway. Her brother, Ben, is in jail for the murders of the Day mother and two other sisters, but during the period leading to the murders he is embroiled in self-destructive teen angst which is a theme of which I never tire.

Like Lisa Gardner and Michael Connelly (and probably others I am forgetting), first person chapters alternate with third person chapters. In Dark Places, the third person chapters are flashbacks. In the other books, the third person chapters are usually at the same time as the main story, told from the point of view of victim or killer. When did this structure become trendy and why do so many mystery writers employ it?

If you like Tana French's novels or The Church of Dead Girls: A Novel (Stephen Dobyns), Dark Places might be for you. I know that I am going to read Sharp Objects: A Novel, Flynn's first book, shortly.

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