By: Gillian Flynn
Date Finished: 11.17.14
Libby Day and her brother, Ben, are the sole survivors of the massacre that killed their family. Almost instantly, Ben was charged with the murders, convicted, and sent to prison for life. Libby has been hiding from that night ever since, incapable of making any real connections or commitments, and living off the pity of strangers. As her money runs out, Libby agrees to track down other suspects for a group that is trying to prove Ben’s innocence — so long as they’re willing to pay. Along the way, she discovers that there was much more to that night’s horrors than she allowed herself to believe.
Well, the title does not lie. This book goes to some very dark places indeed. It is written from three perspectives: Libby, Ben, and their mother, Patty. Libby’s story is the primary story, taking place in the present and occupying the odd numbered chapters. Ben and Patty both speak from the day of the murders, their stories alternating on the even numbered chapters. It is grotesquely fascinating to watch misunderstanding after misunderstanding pile up, ultimately leading to the brutal massacre. All the while, the reader watches in horror as compounding bad decisions are made, knowing that it’s only going to get worse.
Parts of it are downright gruesome, but I have to admire Flynn’s craft. Every part of the story falls into place like a Rube Goldberg machine. A day in the life of Ben and Patty mirrored the trajectory that Libby took to uncover the truth twenty odd years later. Both arcs were natural and complete, and their interactions complex and seamless.
I wish I could say this is the book form of a Cold Case episode (one of my favorite shows; the concept and structure are similar in many ways) but it’s a little too grotesque. This was a book club read, so I can’t tell you if I would have finished it or not on my own. I suspect I might have skipped to the end to see who committed the murders, or maybe read just Libby’s chapters (because she is delightful even in her bitterness). The craft is excellent, but some things you can’t unread.
At the end of the day: Not for me