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Dark Places


Dark Places Cover

ISBN13: 9780307341570
ISBN10: 0307341577
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Libby Day


I have a meanness inside me, real as an organ. Slit me at my belly and it might slide out, meaty and dark, drop on the floor so you could stomp on it. Its the Day blood. Somethings wrong with it. I was never a good little girl, and I got worse after the murders. Little Orphan Libby grew up sullen and boneless, shuffled around a group of lesser relatives—second cousins and great-aunts and friends of friends—stuck in a series of mobile homes or rotting ranch houses all across Kansas. Me going to school in my dead sisters hand-me-downs: Shirts with mustardy armpits. Pants with baggy bottoms, comically loose, held on with a raggedy belt cinched to the farthest hole. In class photos my hair was always crooked—barrettes hanging loosely from strands, as if they were airborne objects caught in the tangles—and I always had bulging pockets under my eyes, drunk-landlady eyes. Maybe a grudging curve of the lips where a smile should be. Maybe.

I was not a lovable child, and Id grown into a deeply unlovable adult. Draw a picture of my soul, and itd be a scribble with fangs.

It was miserable, wet-bone March and I was lying in bed thinking about killing myself, a hobby of mine. Indulgent afternoon daydreaming: A shotgun, my mouth, a bang and my head jerking once, twice, blood on the wall. Spatter, splatter. “Did she want to be buried or cremated?” people would ask. “Who should come to the funeral?” And no one would know. The people, whoever they were, would just look at each others shoes or shoulders until the silence settled in and then someone would put on a pot of coffee, briskly and with a fair amount of clatter. Coffee goes great with sudden death.

I pushed a foot out from under my sheets, but couldnt bring myself to connect it to the floor. I am, I guess, depressed. I guess Ive been depressed for about twenty-four years. I can feel a better version of me somewhere in there—hidden behind a liver or attached to a bit of spleen within my stunted, childish body—a Libby thats telling me to get up, do something, grow up, move on. But the meanness usually wins out. My brother slaughtered my family when I was seven. My mom, two sisters, gone: bang bang, chop chop, choke choke. I didnt really have to do anything after that, nothing was expected.

I inherited $321,374 when I turned eighteen, the result of all those well-wishers whod read about my sad story, do-gooders whose hearts had gone out to me. Whenever I hear that phrase, and I hear it a lot, I picture juicy doodle-hearts, complete with bird-wings, flapping toward one of my many crap-ass childhood homes, my little-girl self at the window, waving and grabbing each bright heart, green cash sprinkling down on me, thanks, thanks a ton! When I was still a kid, the donations were placed in a conservatively managed bank account, which, back in the day, saw a jump about every three-four years, when some magazine or news station ran an update on me. Little Libbys Brand New Day: The Lone Survivor of the Prairie Massacre Turns a Bittersweet 10. (Me in scruffy pigtails on the possum-pissed lawn outside my Aunt Dianes trailer. Dianes thick tree-calves, exposed by a rare skirt, planted on the trailer steps behind me.) Brave Baby Days Sweet 16! (Me, still miniature, my face aglow with birthday candles, my shirt too tight over breasts that had gone D-cup that year, comic-book sized on my tiny frame, ridiculous, porny.)

Id lived off that cash for more than thirteen years, but it was almost gone. I had a meeting that afternoon to determine exactly how gone. Once a year the man who managed the money, an unblinking, pink-cheeked banker named Jim Jeffreys, insisted on taking me to lunch, a “checkup,” he called it. Wed eat something in the twenty-dollar range and talk about my life—hed known me since I was this-high, after all, heheh. As for me, I knew almost nothing about Jim Jeffreys, and never asked, viewing the appointments always from the same kids-eye view: Be polite, but barely, and get it over with. Single-word answers, tired sighs. (The one thing I suspected about Jim Jeffreys was that he must be Christian, churchy—he had the patience and optimism of someone who thought Jesus was watching.) I wasnt due for a “checkup” for another eight or nine months, but Jim Jeffreys had nagged, leaving phone messages in a serious, hushed voice, saying hed done all he could to extend the “life of the fund,” but it was time to think about “next steps.”

And here again came the meanness: I immediately thought about that other little tabloid girl, Jamie Something, whod lost her family the same year—1985. Shed had part of her face burned off in a fire her dad set that killed everyone else in her family. Any time I hit the ATM, I think of that Jamie girl, and how if she hadnt stolen my thunder, Id have twice as much money. That Jamie Whatever was out at some mall with my cash, buying fancy handbags and jewelry and buttery department-store makeup to smooth onto her shiny, scarred face. Which was a horrible thing to think, of course. I at least knew that.

Finally, finally, finally I pulled myself out of bed with a stage- effect groan and wandered to the front of my house. I rent a small brick bungalow within a loop of other small brick bungalows, all of which squat on a massive bluff overlooking the former stockyards of Kansas City. Kansas City, Missouri, not Kansas City, Kansas. Theres a difference.

My neighborhood doesnt even have a name, its so forgotten. Its called Over There That Way. A weird, subprime area, full of dead ends and dog crap. The other bungalows are packed with old people whove lived in them since they were built. The old people sit, gray and pudding-like, behind screen windows, peering out at all hours. Sometimes they walk to their cars on careful elderly tiptoes that make me feel guilty, like I should go help. But they wouldnt like that. They are not friendly old people—they are tight-lipped, pissed-off old people who do not appreciate me being their neighbor, this new person. The whole area hums with their disapproval. So theres the noise of their disdain and theres the skinny red dog two doors down who barks all day and howls all night, the constant background noise you dont realize is driving you crazy until it stops, just a few blessed moments, and then starts up again. The neighborhoods only cheerful sound I usually sleep through: the morning coos of toddlers. A troop of them, round-faced and multilayered, walk to some daycare hidden even farther in the rats nest of streets behind me, each clutching a section of a long piece of rope trailed by a grown-up. They march, penguin-style, past my house every morning, but I have not once seen them return. For all I know, they troddle around the entire world and return in time to pass my window again in the morning. Whatever the story, I am attached to them. There are three girls and a boy, all with a fondness for bright red jackets—and when I dont seen them, when I oversleep, I actually feel blue. Bluer. Thatd be the word my mom would use, not something as dramatic as depressed. Ive had the blues for twenty-four years.

I put on a skirt and blouse for the meeting, feeling dwarfy, my grown-up, big-girl clothes never quite fitting. Im barely five foot—four foot, ten inches in truth, but I round up. Sue me. Im thirty-one, but people tend to talk to me in singsong, like they want to give me fingerpaints.

I headed down my weedy front slope, the neighbors red dog launching into its busybody barking. On the pavement near my car are the smashed skeletons of two baby birds, their flattened beaks and wings making them look reptilian. Theyve been there for a year. I cant resist looking at them each time I get in my car. We need a good flood, wash them away.

Two elderly women were talking on the front steps of a house across the street, and I could feel them refusing to see me. I dont know anyones name. If one of those women died, I couldnt even say, “Poor old Mrs. Zalinsky died.” Id have to say, “That mean old bitch across the street bit it.”

Feeling like a child ghost, I climbed into my anonymous midsized car, which seems to be made mostly of plastic. I keep waiting for someone from the dealership to show up and tell me the obvious: “Its a joke. You cant actually drive this. We were kidding.” I trance-drove my toy car ten minutes downtown to meet Jim Jeffreys, rolling into the steakhouse parking lot twenty minutes late, knowing hed smile all kindly and say nothing about my tardiness.

I was supposed to call him from my cell phone when I arrived so he could trot out and escort me in. The restaurant—a great, old-school KC steakhouse—is surrounded by hollowed-out buildings that concern him, as if a troop of rapists were permanently crouched in their empty husks awaiting my arrival. Jim Jeffreys is not going to be The Guy Who Let Something Bad Happen to Libby Day. Nothing bad can happen to BRAVE BABY DAY, LITTLE GIRL LOST, the pathetic, red-headed seven-year-old with big blue eyes, the only one who survived the PRAIRIE MASSACRE, the KANSAS CRAZE-KILLINGS, the FARMHOUSE SATAN SACRIFICE. My mom, two older sisters, all butchered by Ben. The only one left, Id fingered him as the murderer. I was the cutie-pie who brought my Devil- worshiping brother to justice. I was big news. The Enquirer put my tearful photo on the front page with the headline ANGEL FACE.

I peered into the rearview mirror and could see my baby face even now. My freckles were faded, and my teeth straightened, but my nose was still pug and my eyes kitten-round. I dyed my hair now, a white-blonde, but the red roots had grown in. It looked like my scalp was bleeding, especially in the late-day sunlight. It looked gory. I lit a cigarette. Id go for months without smoking, and then remember: I need a cigarette. Im like that, nothing sticks.

“Lets go, Baby Day,” I said aloud. Its what I call myself when Im feeling hateful.

I got out of the car and smoked my way toward the restaurant, holding the cigarette in my right hand so I didnt have to look at the left hand, the mangled one. It was almost evening: Migrant clouds floated in packs across the sky like buffalo, and the sun was just low enough to spray everything pink. Toward the river, between the looping highway ramps, obsolete grain elevators sat vacant, dusk-black and pointless.

I walked across the parking lot all by myself, atop a constellation of crushed glass. I was not attacked. It was, after all, just past 5 p.m. Jim Jeffreys was an early-bird eater, proud of it.

He was sitting at the bar when I walked in, sipping a pop, and the first thing he did, as I knew he would, was grab his cell phone from his jacket pocket and stare at it as if it had betrayed him.

“Did you call?” he frowned.

“No, I forgot,” I lied.

He smiled then. “Well, anyway. Anyway, Im glad youre here, sweetheart. Ready to talk turkey?”

He slapped two bucks on the bartop, and maneuvered us over to a red leather booth sprouting yellow stuffing from its cracks. The broken slits scraped the backs of my legs as I slid in. A whoof of cigarette stink burped out of the cushions.

Jim Jeffreys never drank liquor in front of me, and never asked me if I wanted a drink, but when the waiter came I ordered a glass of red wine and watched him try not to look surprised, or disappointed, or anything but Jim Jeffreys-like. What kind of red? the waiter asked, and I had no idea, really—I never could remember the names of reds or whites, or which part of the name you were supposed to say out loud, so I just said, House. He ordered a steak, I ordered a double-stuffed baked potato, and then the waiter left and Jim Jeffreys let out a long dentist-y sigh and said, “Well, Libby, we are entering a very new and different stage here together.”

“So how much is left?” I asked, thinking saytenthousandsayten thousand.

“Do you read those reports I send you?”

“I sometimes do,” I lied again. I liked getting mail but not reading it; the reports were probably in a pile somewhere in my house.

“Have you listened to my messages?”

“I think your cell phone is messed up. It cuts out a lot.” Id listened just long enough to know I was in trouble. I usually tuned out after Jim Jeffreys first sentence, which always began: Your friend Jim Jeffreys here, Libby . . .

Jim Jeffreys steepled his fingers and stuck his bottom lip out. “There is 982 dollars and 12 cents left in the fund. As Ive mentioned before, had you been able to replenish it with any kind of regular work, wed have been able to keep it afloat, but . . .” he tossed out his hands and grimaced, “things didnt work out that way.”

From the Hardcover edition.

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Average customer rating based on 18 comments:

Coni, May 12, 2015 (view all comments by Coni)
Whenever I thought I would stop and take a break from reading, I decided to just read one more chapter. Next thing I knew, I had read more than half the book in one sitting. I only stopped since it was the middle of the night and I really needed to get some sleep. The next time I picked up the book a couple days later, I finished it. I did the same thing with Gillian Flynn’s first book, Sharp Objects. I read it really quickly. I purchased this book as soon as it came out, but didn’t get around to reading it until after I tore through Flynn’s third book Gone Girl. Flynn writes really twisted, dark stories that I have a hard time putting down once I start reading them. I enjoyed Sharp Objects, but could tell where it was going about halfway through the book. Gone Girl threw me for a total loop and I did not completely expect that was heading where it went while reading it. I can see with this book, which was her second one written that her writing was improving. I did enjoy Gone Girl best out of the three I have read by Flynn, but really enjoyed Dark Places.

When I started reading this book, I had to know what happened with the murders so I was more interested in the chapters that were either from Patty or Ben’s point of view since it was what was going on with either of them the day before all the murders took place. The present day chapters were a bit sad because Libby had not adjusted well to adult life after living through that horrifying event and losing her entire family. Later on though, I found it really interesting that Libby started to doubt her own memories when she was faced with bits of evidence or heard conflicting stories from people she was talking to from her past. That’s when I reached a point of no return with this book and I couldn’t stop.

I could not completely tell where this story was heading. Even when I had a vague idea, there were still a lot of surprises. It was frustratingly realistic about how the entire town would feed into gossip and rumors about what they thought happened with the family and how it affected the trial and Libby’s life after the murders. Also, the murders and the family affected so many people still living besides just Libby. That’s why the current day part of the book became more interesting as it went on, even though what I guessed had happened with the actual murders still surprised me, which is great. I love it when I can’t guess what is going on, but still having enough clues to try to figure it out while I read anyway.
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Stephanie Christianson, October 23, 2014 (view all comments by Stephanie Christianson)
After reading Gone Girl, I had to get my hands on Flynn's other writing. Dark Places did not disappoint and is probably more terrifying than GG. I highly recommend reading it during the Halloween season, it's far better than watching a horror movie!
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LisaH, October 22, 2014 (view all comments by LisaH)
After loving 'Gone Girl' so so much, I had to read everything by the author. This wasn't as captivating and insightful as 'Girl' but it was very good. Ms. Flynn has a way of looking into the souls of her characters and making them leap off the page at you!
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Product Details

Flynn, Gillian
Three Rivers Press (CA)
Gillian Flynn
Popular Fiction-Suspense
Mystery & Detective - Women Sleuths
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
8 x 5.31 in 1 lb

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Dark Places Used Trade Paper
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Product details 368 pages Three Rivers Press (CA) - English 9780307341570 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

Libby Day's mother and two sisters were savagely murdered when Libby was only seven years old. Her testimony in the ensuing trial helped send her brother to prison for the crimes. But is he really guilty? Flynn's accessible and compelling writing style make this a must for any carry-on or beach bag!

"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Edgar-finalist Flynn's second crime thriller tops her impressive debut, Sharp Objects. When Libby Day's mother and two older sisters were slaughtered in the family's Kansas farmhouse, it was seven-year-old Libby's testimony that sent her 15-year-old brother, Ben, to prison for life. Desperate for cash 24 years later, Libby reluctantly agrees to meet members of the Kill Club, true crime enthusiasts who bicker over famous cases. She's shocked to learn most of them believe Ben is innocent and the real killer is still on the loose. Though initially interested only in making a quick buck hocking family memorabilia, Libby is soon drawn into the club's pseudo-investigation, and begins to question what exactly she saw — or didn't see — the night of the tragedy. Flynn fluidly moves between cynical present-day Libby and the hours leading up to the murders through the eyes of her family members. When the truth emerges, it's so twisted that even the most astute readers won't have predicted it." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review A Day" by , "[Dark Places] offers an authentic portrayal of the itchy angst and burning blunder of adolescence and, in its devotion to a world populated by mostly failed people who somehow managed to do one thing right — or one right thing — it remains committed to a complexly human, yet hopeful, vision. Readers will surely hope for more work from Flynn..." (read the entire Rain Taxi review)
"Review" by , "[A] nerve-fraying thriller."
"Review" by , "Flynn's well-paced story deftly shows the fallibility of memory and the lies a child tells herself to get through a trauma."
"Review" by , "Flynn follows her deliciously creepy Sharp Objects with another dark tale....The story, alternating between the 1985 murders and the present, has a tense momentum that works beautifully. And when the truth emerges, it's so macabre not even twisted little Libby Day could see it coming."
"Review" by , "Flynn returns to the front ranks of emerging thriller writers with her aptly titled new novel....Those who prefer their literary bones with a little bloody meat will be riveted."
"Review" by , "Gillian Flynn's writing is compulsively good. I would rather read her than just about any other crime writer."
"Review" by , "[A] gripping thriller."
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