In the past three years, but perhaps more like five, book to movie adaptations have been steadily rising towards a peak. Ever since the days of the Harry Potter adaptations, writers have been seeing their works being adapted for screen, some even getting deals to help write the screenplays. In 2012, Gillian Flynn released her newest novel called Gone Girl to almost unanimous critical praise. Loved for its taut, but unreliable narration, Gone Girl went on to be made into a movie two years later by David Fincher. However it was around the same time that Flynn’s other novel, Dark Places was also optioned for film, with a release date tentatively set for 2014/2015. Another dark thriller, it tells the story of a slew of murders on the Kansas prairie. Not quite Truman Capote, but bloody enough to catch the reader’s interest.
Dark Places tells the story of Libby Day, public media figure and the only surviving child of the Day Family Massacre of 1985. When Libby was just a little girl, her family was murdered by her older brother. Mother and two sisters dead while she fled the house and lost a few fingers and toes to frostbite while hiding from the killer. Now almost 25 years later, Libby is running out of cash. In the years following the murders, people felt pity for her and made donations to her. She was an orphan after all. Her brother, Ben, had been arrested for the murders and sentenced to life in prison. But it’s only when the cash draught begins that Libby gets an offer that she literally cannot refuse, because it comes with cash. A seemingly harmless fellow named Lyle heads up this group called the Kill Club that investigates and obsesses over old murders and unsolved mysteries. His fascination and his groups in particular is the Day Murders. Libby visits the Kill Club and learns that there are dozens of people who maintain that Ben did not kill her mother and sisters. In fact they all have different theories, each more wild than the next. Lyle initially pays Libby to show up at the club, but when she gets monetary offers to find and talk to people connected with the case, she gives in and allows her mind to accept the possibility that her brother is not the murderous person she has made him out to be.
When it was announced that Gone Girl was being made into a movie, book sales shot up. There was a film cover of the book and the trailer played before every Youtube video and during every commercial break of your favorite television show. It had turned into it’s own phenomenon. Which isn’t to say that Gone Girl was not a good book, but Dark Places is just as good if not better than it. Every other chapter alternates between the day of the murders and the present day where Libby is playing detective and talking to people who had involvement with her family in 1985. The point of view switches between Libby, her mother Patty and her brother Ben, all very important players in the story. And while Flynn is known for her twisted thought process and incredible twists in her books, the mystery in Dark Places is just really, really good. We know from the top that the murders happened and how; that’s no mystery. The pieces that need to be put together are the ones of who did it and why. Throughout the story we are offered many different scenarios in which the murders might have occurred. It could have been this person or that. None of them seem more plausible than the next to the reader and that’s what makes it so great. The mystery is as real as a fictional mystery can get.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 – Though Gillian Flynn has only written three books so far, Dark Places is for sure overshadowed by Gone Girl. With a tight mystery and snarky narrator, Dark Places is just like that middle child that gets ignored, only to make the honor roll every semester.