The other day at work, I wandered over to Lindsey’s desk to borrow some reading material. We often act as mini-libraries to each other, both having similar taste in novels. There was a pile of three or four books there, and I picked out Dark Places by Gillian Flynn, murmuring something along the lines of: “Disturbed seven-year-old child? Family massacred? Hell yes!” Sometimes I worry about what crime fiction does to people’s brains. Mostly I think it’s a good outlet for the darker side of human nature.

Anyway. I brought the book home and read it. Seven-year-old Libby Day is in the house when her mother and two sisters are killed. She knows that her brother is also home, but he gets out alive, and everyone assumes he’s the murderer, not least because of the allegations of Satan worship levelled at his friends.

Over two decades later, Libby goes along to the Kill Club, a bizarre gathering of people who are obsessed with true crime, and meets a group of enthusiasts who are certain that her brother Ben didn’t kill her family. Of course, she spends the rest of the book trying to work out what happened.

It’s dark. There’s Satanism (the media-blown-up kind, not the Satanic Bible/Anton LaVey kind), there’s accusations of child molestation, there’s axe murdering, shooting, cows being slaughtered (not in the so-we-can-eat-them way), and a lot of very disturbed people. Somehow it manages to do all of this without being too chilling. Mo Hayder, who also writes along very dark themes, publishes books that literally make your skin crawl. Not so with Gillian Flynn, but that doesn’t make it any less gripping.

Definitely recommended. I’m going to go and look for some of her other books to read.

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