Fiction Friday: Book Review of Gillian Flynn's DARK PLACES

Friday, August 28, 2020

Fiction Friday: Reading my way through the unread pages on my bookshelves and taking everyone along for the ride with me.

Obsessively reading Flynn's Gone Girl, on vacation in 2014

Because the story of Dark Places is a murder mystery thriller, widely hailed for being an addictive page-turner, I pretty much knew I was going to love it from page one.

But I didn't!

Don't get me wrong, I read it in less than 48 hours, nearly physically unable to put it down.  But when I finally turned the last page and closed the book, I was almost personally offended that Gillian Flynn had expected her readers to buy into the ending.


Here's my pet peeve with endings: I don't want my suspension of disbelief to be tested that much with a book's resolution.  And with Dark Places, it simply was.  The fact that we, the readers, are supposed to believe that (1) Diondra, a teenage girl, would just impulsively decide to strangle someone (Michelle) to death for an offense as benign as overhearing a secret (however scandalous), (2) the hitman would come to the door at the exact same moment said strangling was occurring upstairs, and (3) Debby would coincidentally appear in the entry way to observe the mom's stabbing (thus needing to then be shot by the hitman, naturally) is asking a bit too much of the reader's suspension of disbelief.

But it wasn't just the ending that irked me; I generally found myself rolling my eyes at the events throughout the book as they unfolded too conveniently to believe.  Krissi's mom just happens to answer the phone right away, ready discuss her estranged daughter with a stranger? And then she just happens to know Krissi's exact whereabouts, despite not having had any contact with her in years?  Krissi then just happens to be at the first roadside strip club they look?  And Runner just happens to be in a field near the men's home in Oklahoma when Libbie shows up?  And following that, Libbie just happens to correctly postulate Diondra's new name, locating her immediately thereafter?  And Crystal just happens to reveal all the answers to Libbie within an hour of her arrival at their home?  And don't even get me started on the plausibility of those 3 teenagers being the culprits behind the animal sacrifices.  What a major eye roll.  And then, magically, we have a DNA sample, Ben is freed, and everything wraps up nicely -- the justice system works after all, guys!

I also hated all of the characters, so there's that.  Diondra was the worst.  Trey was maybe somehow even worse than her.  Honestly, I didn't even like Libbie -- and it's hard to love a book when you're not even really rooting for the protagonist.

But the real bone I have to pick with this book is the same issue I take with Flynn's most famous novel, Gone Girl.  Both books perpetuate stereotypes that are not only statistically unlikely but are also just plain dangerous.  Gone Girl irresponsibly exploits the vindictive-woman-falsely-accuses-exboyfriend-of-rape trope, while Dark Places showcases a young girl accusing a male high schooler of a similar crime when she, in reality, was the aggressor (at the age of 11, too - super common, I'm so sure).  As a woman, I really can't imagine penning not one but two works that employ the use of these anti-victim themes.

And yet somehow, Flynn hasn't lost me yet, because Sharper Objects is the next book on my list -- just started it yesterday.  Fingers crossed I don't regret giving her another try.  Maybe the third time will be the charm; we shall see!

Until next Friday...

Nev said...

I have never read Flynn and I'll definitely avoid Dark Places now. Also, I need your discerning eye on my novel, missy! Some of my favourite moments from beta readers were when they gave it to me straight, especially one of my Canadian friends who has the best deadpan humour, and I'd just be like, "More, MOOORE!"

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