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Dark Places: Book Review and Summary

Updated on January 25, 2018
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An avid book nerd, Jennifer Branton loves to share her favorite book finds with her readers.

Brand New Day

In Dark Places by Gillian Flynn the only survivor of a brutal farmhouse attack on her family later coined the Kinkakee Satan Sacrifice, Libby Day- only seven has suffered through false memories of her families last moments with details planted through police and therapists. Everything Libby thinks she knows about the events that jailed her older brother Ben for the crimes, is called into question again as local crime enthusiasts push Libby to aid their investigation and seek the truth.

No longer the cute witness to the murders, Libby has fallen out of the spotlight and alone and depressed, wishing for death.

Jealous and jaded from a young age of being bounced around relatives home after the death of her family is disappearance of her father, Libby has survived as long as she could on a meager trust fund that came from donations after the murders. Now in her thirties as her adviser tells Libby there just isn't any money left in her trust fund and with no job experience, Libby takes on the task of being paid by the true crime club to get more information on what exactly happened that night and uncovers more than she could ever bargain.

What Libby finds out from reuniting with her father and friends of her brother, and finally bringing herself to see her brother Ben Day whom is still serving time in prison, is far more shocking than what we thought we knew about the murders on the Day Farm.

Like Flynn's other novels Gone Girl and Sharp Objects everything we thought we knew about the murders is quickly turned on its head through the introduction of new characters, and unreliable narrative weaving a twisted path to the final truth.

Dark Places weaves a twisted path of unreliable narrative to a final unbelievable truth.

The Final Day

Through Libby and the introduction in flashbacks of Ben, and their mother Patty, the final day in the family's life unfolds beginning in conflict. It was introduced early on that Patty was deeply in debt after the absence of her husband, Runner who had left the family of his own accord only to come back occasionally to try to get money off her. While Patty maintained she was hardly getting by and in fact losing her parents farm in foreclosure, it wasn't enough for Runner who appeared to steal her jewelry and money he found around the house although the children were malnourished and filthy wearing hand-me-down clothing.

Patty was working with a lender but just as Runner owed money to bookies for his gambling debts, Patty taking out loan after loan against her farm was finally adding up and she had to sell much of her farm equipment and the children's possessions. Finally she had nothing else to give and was in negotiation one more time over the loan.

In the meantime, Patty had lost control of her children and Ben began to assert himself as more of a teenager dyeing his hair black and becoming more secretive. He hated being poor and had an after school job but still had to depend on shoplifting and getting most of his clothing from a rich girlfriend that hung around with the wild crowd. The more Ben saw of his girlfriend's friends, the rumors of devil worship and animal killing began to circulate in a time when any wild teen behavior was blamed on rock music and horror movies. Ben's girlfriend falls pregnant and he is convinced that her family will kick her out and maybe even kill her so he is desperate to find a way to get them both out of town.

Taken advantage of by the wild group in which he hangs out, Ben meaning to do the right thing is roped along into what becomes a night that will haunt him forever.

The Final Night

Through his work at the grade school as a janitor, a younger girl Krissi Cates, gains a crush on Ben that he knows is inappropriate but leads to a kiss. Krissi mentions to other girls in her grade she has a boyfriend in high school and soon the rumor gets out of control that Ben is molesting little girls.

On the final night of his families lives, Ben is running from the impending arrest for the molestation charge,trying to get out of town with his pregnant girlfriend- all trying to do what he thinks is the right thing as his mother in the meantime was frantically searching for him trying to save her son.

As Libby revisited old witnesses, she realizes she is not the only one that has been lying to herself and that the web of deceit and betrayal is everywhere.

Libby finds her father in Oklahoma living in a squatter community. Her father who claimed to know nothing all these years, has his own knowledge of Ben coming to him on the night of the murders to try and blackmail money to get out of town and actually steal from him mother.

The truth about Ben's expectant girlfriend and the child she shares with Ben also comes out and Libby discovers that her brother had taken the fall.

Libby discovers her brother had taken the fall for a crime he was covering up.

The Sad Truth

What happened to the Day's no one would have seen coming.

Ben and his girlfriend came back to the house to gather clothing so he could run away. He had began to collect baby clothes for their soon to be new arrival and was hiding a bag of little girl underwear and t-shirts under the bed. After the allegations of the Krissi Cates molestation, Patty had broken into Ben's room finding the clothing and had believed that she had no other choice than to risk losing her farm to protect Ben at any cost and called in the loan officer to take any last deal that could be made so she would have capital for a lawyer.

Libby later learned from one of the true crime enthusiasts that her mother had actually put out a hit on herself so that her life insurance would save the farm and benefit her children, only the hit man was too enthusiastic and not only killed Patty but one of her daughters in a brutal fashion.

Ben and his girlfriend, also in the home were currently engaged in a fight with one of Libby's sisters for spying on their plan and threatening to tell about their pregnancy and the running away and was accidentally strangled. Realizing that his girlfriend had just murdered his sister and then hearing the gun shoots in the hallway, Ben feared then for Libby and told her to run. She managed to get outside but had hidden so long that she lost a finger and some toes to frost bite.

Piecing together the new information, Libby realizes that only fragments of her memory were correct and that two separate crimes were committed in the home on the same night but Ben was taking the blame for everyone to cover up his girlfriend's involvement so she could go on to take care of their baby.

So many things in this book were based on misinformation, lies, and perceptions of others in the story. Ben by far was as much a victim as Libby in this story and he will spend the rest of his life in jail for murders he didn't commit.

There is no happy ending in this book, just as other Gillian Flynn novels which is what I love about her style. Dark Places takes you on a thrill ride through Hell itself and every turn where someone could do the right thing to get off the ride and change the events of the story, no one ever does. Runner Day never recants what he knows, Krissi Cates never confesses that Ben didn't molest her starting the witch hunt. Ben never tells that he was just trying to protect someone by not appealing his case and Libby never recants her testimony after she knows the truth.

They just all go back to their dark places and go on living the way they had before never growing any wiser from the experience.

Dark Places was also adapted into a major motion picture.


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