As readers, we all have our go-tos. Our books that for one reason or another pique our interest in a special way, manage to captivate our interests even after we know what is going to happen, and live on in our imaginations long after we’ve finished reading them. Most of us have several. Also, if you are an avid reader you will likely have people frequently approach you (usually while you are reading) and ask for book recommendations. Usually, I immediately ask them what they like to read. They’ll stop and think for a moment, and then most of the time they will say one of two things. They’ll either say “I like to read anything, I’m not really picky,” or they’ll say THRILLERS or MYSTERIES. (Not always, sometimes they’ll be like “historical fiction” or “romance” or some other such thing. But, by and large non-readers will gravitate to thrillers because they are so compelling and can generally hold the interest of even the most infrequent reader.) If their answer is either of the two responses listed above, I always, without fail, recommend Dark Places by Gillian Flynn. And always, without fail, I’m right on the money.
When it comes to suspense, Gillian Flynn has got the goods. Her literary prowess is twofold; firstly, it cannot be denied that Flynn is a masterful story teller. Secondly, her prose is exquisite. Her writing is almost lyrical, each word is chosen with precision to render perfectly crafted paragraphs and pages. When it comes to grasping and firmly holding a reader’s attention Flynn is a pro. And I firmly believe that Dark Places is her most compelling novel. From the very first paragraph, her readers are hooked. This is also her most complex novel, with layers and layers of creepiness and detail. In my days as a bookseller, I used to sell this book by walking customers to the shelf, opening it up to the first page of the first chapter and instructing them to start reading. This was almost always effective. And if you have doubts, here is a picture of me, about 3 years ago, selling a box set of Flynn’s novels (and a Lady Gaga & Tony Bennet Album. I stand by both of these choices.)
The book opens “I have a meanness inside me, real as an organ,” and just like that, there is no putting this book down. In case that wasn’t enough for you, she continues with “slit me at my belly and it might slide out.” I have also described this book to people as “a wedding cake of creepiness,” but that description, while accurate, does not quite do it justice. When I first read this book I devoured it in one night. It spooked me, made me mad, made me cry a little, and made me think about how much I love my mom. Even Stephen King loves Gillian Flynn. If you purchase the updated copy of his book On Writing, you will find her on his list of recommended reading. He says “Gillian Flynn is the real deal, a sharp, acerbic, and compelling storyteller with a knack for the macabre.” And of course he’s right, he’s STEPHEN KING.