Saturday, June 21, 2014

Dark Places

A good novel should meet three criteria.  It should be well written. The story line should be plausible with character depictions ringing true.  Last, there should be some message that remains with the reader for at least some time.

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn is very, very, well written.  The book is a top shelf page turner-- essentially a whodunit.  The surviving daughter of a family slaughter had originally fingered her brother as the perpetrator.  She emerges from the understandable darkness of having had her mother and two sisters murdered, and attempts, twenty five years after the killings, to find out if her incarcerated brother is indeed the murderer.

Some page turners are just that and only that.  You turn the pages but the story is so far fetched that when you get done you figure all you did was pass the time.  Dark Places is not far fetched in this way. There are some characters and actions that do not pass the ridickalus test, but enough do to make the story seem real.

The novel is written from the vantage point of several characters.  The main character, the surviving daughter, is well crafted.  The sections told from her perspective are relayed in the first person. The problem I have with her, is that the sole survivor (at 7) of a mass killing is unlikely to be as insightful and erudite as Libby appears to be from how she describes her activities. There are plenty of self-deprecating comments she makes that relate to her reaction to the tragedy, but she just seems too unblocked and persevering.  Also, the brother's post tragedy behavior doesn't ring true.  Some other actions are also questionable--as in "c'mon would she really do that?"

Still, the story is far better and more logical than many other popular whodunits that have too many convenient and illogical plot turns.

Will the message stick around? I think so. Not sure if it will be around a long time.  We all need to emerge from Dark Places, though very few have to withstand something like a mass murder in our family. Yet, the idea that we have dark places and sometimes feel stuck in them is real. And it takes a good deal of energy to work to address the sources of darkness and find the light.

A good book and recommended.  If you are squeamish, there are parts that might make you uncomfortable, but if you can get through that, this will be a fast enjoyable read.

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