Review: Dark Places – Gillian Flynn

dark placesLibby Day was just seven years old when her evidence put her fifteen-year-old brother behind bars.

Since then, she has been drifting. But when she is contacted by a group who are convinced of Ben’s innocence, Libby starts to ask questions she never dared to before. Was the voice she heard her borther’s? Ben was a misfit in their small town, but was he capable of murder? Are there secrets to uncover at the family farm or is Libby deluding herself because she wants her brother back?

She begins to realise that everyone in her family had something to hide that day… especially Ben. Now, twenty-four years later, the truth is going to be even harder to find.

Who did massacre the Day family?

Rating: 4/5

Dark Places is my third book by Gillian Flynn, so I was well-prepared for the disturbing psychological nature of the story to follow. And it was a great read, despite the gruesome nature of the crime which forms the central plot of the book.

A few things stood out for me, namely, the poverty and the desperate measures it drives people to, the sheer cruelty of teenagers to those who are different, the lengths people will go to to protect others, and how guilty people can appear when those from the outside take a closer look at their lives.

As with all Flynn’s novels, the main female character is an unlikeable one, but this isn’t a criticism – as I read somewhere, it’s excellent that we are obtaining problematic female characters in a genre mostly dominated by men, and where women are usually cardboard cutouts to further the development of the man.

Furthermore, you can’t help but feel sympathy for Libby Day, despite her methods of obtaining cash by exploiting the interest in her family tragedy, and her kleptomaniac tendencies. The novel also takes a good hard look at our culture’s collective fascination for brutal crimes, the constant speculation of ‘whodunnit’, the vicarious entertainment we find. And there are those who take it even further, as depicted in the book – forming clubs centered around prolific crimes, playing detective, and creating a hobby out of the macabre.

Review: Sharp Objects – Gillian Flynn

sharp objectsWICKED above her hipbone, GIRL across her heart 
Words are like a road map to reporter Camille Preaker’s troubled past. Fresh from a brief stay at a psych hospital, Camille’s first assignment from the second-rate daily paper where she works brings her reluctantly back to her hometown to cover the murders of two preteen girls.

NASTY on her kneecap, BABYDOLL on her leg 
Since she left town eight years ago, Camille has hardly spoken to her neurotic, hypochondriac mother or to the half-sister she barely knows: a beautiful thirteen-year-old with an eerie grip on the town. Now, installed again in her family’s Victorian mansion, Camille is haunted by the childhood tragedy she has spent her whole life trying to cut from her memory.

HARMFUL on her wrist, WHORE on her ankle 
As Camille works to uncover the truth about these violent crimes, she finds herself identifying with the young victims—a bit too strongly. Clues keep leading to dead ends, forcing Camille to unravel the psychological puzzle of her own past to get at the story. Dogged by her own demons, Camille will have to confront what happened to her years before if she wants to survive this homecoming.

Rating: 4/5

Argh! I don’t even know how to review this book. If you check out what other people have written about Sharp Objects, you’ll know that it’s extremely dark, twisted and highly, highly disturbing.

We have child abuse, borderline alcoholism, drug use, promiscuity, serial killers, broken families, psychological issues…But the writing and the plot are so compelling that you simply have to keep reading, until you’ve reached the end and your facial expression is more along the lines of O________O.

The book also tackles class and money issues, as well as commentary on certain gender divides and appearance as currency. You can feel the small town claustrophobia, the long hot days of boredom, the too-grown teenag girls teasing and manipulating their way around people.

Sharp Objects deals with some of the worse specimens of humanity – we all have our issues, there’s no denying that, but some people are more screwed up than others, and the people around them bear the scars to differing extents.

It’s cutting, it’s despairing, it takes a long hard look at the uglier parts of society.

The pretty girl might do alright. But the piggy middle child, who now waddled dazedly into the rom, was destined for needy sex and snack-cake bingeing. The boy was the type who’d end up drinking in gas-station parking lots. The kind of angry, bored kid I saw on my way into town.

Review: Mr. Kiss and Tell (Veronica Mars #2) – Rob Thomas & Jennifer Graham

mr kiss and tell The Neptune Grand has always been the seaside town’s ritziest hotel, despite the shady dealings and high-profile scandals that seem to follow its elite guests. When a woman claims that she was brutally assaulted in one of its rooms and left for dead by a staff member, the owners know that they have a potential powder keg on their hands. They turn to Veronica to disprove—or prove—the woman’s story.

The case is a complicated mix of hard facts, mysterious occurrences, and uncooperative witnesses. The hotel refuses to turn over its reservation list and the victim won’t divulge who she was meeting that night. Add in the facts that the attack happened months ago, the victim’s memory is fuzzy, and there are holes in the hotel’s surveillance system, and Veronica has a convoluted mess on her hands. As she works to fill in the missing pieces, it becomes clear that someone is lying—but who? And why?

Rating: 4/5

I think one of the things that most impress me about this book series is the way they absolutely nail Veronica’s voice, the way it was in the series. To be fair, Rob Thomas was the creator of the show and co-author of the book, so there is continuity there, but nevertheless, I enjoy how seamless the transition from show to book has been. It’s Veronica, but all grown up – a little less prickly, a little more jaded, but still as determined, feisty, smart and kickass as ever.

And this second instalment doesn’t disappoint. In Mr Kiss and Tell, Veronica is on the trail of a serial rapist and abuser, whose case was brought to her attention after a woman is assaulted in the glitzy Neptune Grand hotel, and left for dead in a trash field, with no memory of how she got there.

The book pulls no punches – it makes it very clear how the justice system only works for some, particularly in the cases of rape or sexual assault – if you’re in any way involved in the sex industry, then pssshaw, it’s not rape, it’s shoplifting, right? *fumes* Not to mention, do you have a history, what were you wearing, why were you meeting a strange man… It takes a critical look and makes some rather pointed comments, which make my liberal heart sing with glee.

This criticism of the justice system extends to the American system of policing as well – and couldn’t be more timely, considering all that’s going on in the states at the moment. (And always has been, who are we kidding?) On the heels of the case of Eli (Weevil)’s court case, with him being falsely charged due to planted evidence, we’re once again reminded how the system works for those with money and power in Neptune, while those less fortunate are either completely abandoned by the system, or become victims of it. This culminates in Keith and Cliff deciding that something has to give, and fighting back against Sheriff Lamb, the epitomy of police corruption.

Quite apart from her pressing case, running a business with her father and all the other goings-on in Neptune, Veronica is also juggling to spend time with Logan, back from shore leave. Now I will admit – I was never a Veronica/Logan shipper. *ducks for cover* Nevertheless, it’s great to see Logan a changed man, albeit one who still goes on bromance dates with Dick Casablancas.

Finally, I love how the books do service to the hardcore fans of the series by dropping in mentions of previous characters, cases and incidents from the show. And it serves as a recap for those who haven’t watched the series (WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?!) but have started the books.

Mr Kiss and Tell was more about the journey than the destination – we find out who the perpetrator is around halfway through, but it’s getting him proven guilty that’s the problem. The case also wasn’t as front and centre as it was in the previous book, what with everything else going on, but I found I was so invested in all the betrayals, tensions and Neptune politics that it didn’t bother me.

All in all, another strong instalment in the Veronica Mars series. Live long and prosper, I say!

ARC received from Edelweiss in return for an honest review.