Somewhere in the wee morning hours between one and two A.M., I finished reading Dark Places by Gillian Flynn. About an hour after that my heart stopped pounding and my mind stopped racing and I finally got to sleep. My ideal bedtime is ten o’clock, so it was a strange night for me. This strange book was utterly un-put-down-able!
When I began reading it I wasn’t sure what criteria it would satisfy in our reading list. Dark Places is a New York Times bestseller (#13), a book set around Christmas, if not exactly on Christmas day or with a deliberate Christmas theme (#5), and the movie rights have been sold so it has some crossover with #10 as well. At the outset, it is truly #19, a book that scares you. Though it was over 300 pages it could have almost been a book you can read in one day (#6) because I cruised through nearly 200 pages yesterday alone. The only thing that curbed my reading was when Rob went away for the night because this was not something I wanted to read home alone. Like my rule to stop watching Criminal Minds after three in the afternoon if no one else is there, I also decided not to read Dark Places home alone while the dark places crept up around me. That was the only thing to deter my non-stop journey through this book.
There were four distinct stages to my reading of Dark Places:
Stage One – The Slow Burn
As I started the novel, I didn’t really like or care about the characters. It seemed moderately predictable. The writing was engaging and the realistic little details Flynn added kept me going but I didn’t really care in those first few chapters. This seems to be a pattern in Flynn’s plots though. She starts slow and crescendos to the non-stop twists and turns that make you unable to put her books down.
Stage Two – Unraveling
As the plot began unraveling and the mystery opening up like a blooming flower, I was entranced in the disturbingly delightful way Flynn always sucks me into her novels.
Stage Three – Just Be Over
There was a point somewhere around page 170 when I just wanted it to be over. I was too anxious about the whole story and I needed to know what happened on January 2nd, 1985 at that farmhouse in Kansas. I was actually panicking as I read it. My palms were sweating, my stomach was churning, I went through more stress reading this book than I ever do in my day-to-day life.
Stage Four – Sprint
There were probably seventy pages left when I began sprinting through the remainder of the book like it was the final ten pages. If this book were a marathon I would have started sprinting to the finish line far too early and passed out before I got there.
I can’t think of anyone to compare Flynn to but herself. I think in comparison to her other novels this was her best. I never thought she could write something better than Gone Girl but Dark Places may be the best. (I’m too close to the situation to decide definitively yet).
There were little rivers of consistency reoccurring in her otherwise completely original plots: the vomit mantra of “getting it all up” and “getting all that bad stuff out” (Sharp Objects, Dark Places), the posters of missing people (Sharp Objects, Dark Places, Gone Girl), the love of bourbon (Sharp Objects, Gone Girl), and the “reformed” man vowing to commit the rest of his life to making it up to the female protagonist, or antagonist as it were (Dark Places, Gone Girl). I might not have noticed the consistencies if I hadn’t completed the Gillian Flynn hat trick in quick succession.
Thanks for the Christmas gift, Mom. No box set of books has brought me more excitement.