Study Guide

Dark Places

By Gillian Flynn

Dark Places Introduction

You might have a bad day when you get out of the shower and forget to wash the shampoo out of your hair, or when your local breakfast joint gets your order wrong, or when you hear that terrible song that whines, "'Cause you've had a bad day…". All of these things can make you have a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad day.

None of that—not even all three of these things happening on the same morning—would add up to a day as bad as the one Libby Day experiences in Gillian Flynn's Dark Places. This bad day is the day this Day's entire family is massacred. Maybe someone heard that awful "Bad Day" song one too many times and snapped?

Only two people survive—Libby, and her brother, Ben, who is arrested for the crime. Over twenty years later, Libby starts to suspect that maybe her brother didn't do it, and she tries to find out who ruined her day.

Okay, we've had enough bad puns for to-Day. We promise.

You know Gillian Flynn: she's the criminal mastermind behind the mega-smash Gone Girl. You might not know that the "G" is hard, as in the "gills" of a fish, not like "Jack and Jill." Impress your friends with your good pronunciation skills.

Before Flynn impressed the world with Gone Girl, a creepy novel about the most dysfunctional relationship ever, she was a TV critic for Entertainment Weekly, writing about other scary dysfunctional relationships, like the one between Charlie Sheen and Jon Cryer in Two and a Half Men (even scarier: she liked it.)

Flynn left the magazine to write her first novel, the creepy and violent Sharp Objects, in 2006. In 2009, she followed it up with her second, the creepier and violent-er Dark Places.

Gillian Flynn knows how to unsettle people. (Must be all that time spent watching Two and a Half Men.) In Gone Girl, she forces every couple to examine their own relationship. In Dark Places, she has us all look at our own fascination with violent crimes. Why are we attracted to them, and what does that attraction say about us?

After the success of Gone Girl, the rights to Flynn's previous novels were snapped up immediately. Dark Places was made into a 2015 thriller starring Charlize Theron as Libby, Christina Hendricks as her mother, Patty, and Chloë Grace Moretz as Ben's girlfriend, Diondra.

So if you're a fan of mysteries, thrillers, dysfunctional families, unsolved crimes, or Gone Girl… basically, if you're a person alive on this planet right now, turn on your reading light and get ready to explore some Dark Places.

What is Dark Places About and Why Should I Care?

Husbands killing wives. Wives killing husbands. Entire families wiped out in gruesome murder-suicides.

Yeah, stories like these seem to make the news almost every day. And as much as you may want to look away, most people don't: crimes like these get great ratings. There's even a whole channel full of true-crime programming. The Perfect Murder to discuss perfect murders. Dangerous Persuasions about people persuaded to do dangerous things. Did He Do It? OMG DID HE?!

These titles are not exactly subtle, but they don't have to be. The public is fascinated with violence.

Dark Places (not exactly a subtle title, either) is like the best Investigation Discovery show that never existed—but in book form. (Hey, they could squeeze it between Dark Minds and Dark Temptations for a dark triple threat.) Sure, this novel is fiction, but like all great fiction, it draws upon real emotions, like our fascination with violence and the macabre.

So stop gawking at real-life violence and grab a copy of Dark Places to gawk at fictional violence for a change. Truth may sometimes be stranger than fiction, but this book is an exception. It's pretty freaking weird, and it's guaranteed to get you talking.

Dark Places Resources

WEBSITES

A Dark Place on the Internet
It's just light enough on Gillian Flynn's dark-grey website to read what she posts there… if you dare.

MOVIE OR TV PRODUCTIONS

Delayed Places
The Dark Places film adaptation was supposed to open in April 2015. It didn't. Variety speculates why in this review.

Cameo Appearance
Gillian Flynn's alma mater, Entertainment Weekly, previews Dark Places, along with Gillian Flynn's cameo in the picture.

ARTICLES AND INTERVIEWS

Friends in High Places
Writer Chris High snagged an interview with Gillian Flynn with the debut of her second novel, the literary equivalent of interviewing Taylor Swift when she released her second single.

Dark to Darker
This reviewer of Dark Places is shocked to see Flynn go even darker than she did in her debut, Sharp Objects.

Dull Objects
Dark Places left this Powell's reviewer wanting more. (Not more Satan.)

VIDEO

Dark Trailer
See if Charlize Theron and the former Mr. Jennifer Lawrence match your vision of Libby and Lyle takin' names and solvin' crimes.

Lots of Pitchforks
This interview with Gillian Flynn isn't as disturbing as you might think it would be. She doesn't seem like a farmer or a Satan worshiper.

AUDIO

New Speedway Boogie
Libby hums this Grateful Dead song when looking for Runner, grateful he's not dead… for once.

Buckle Up
A reviewer for the audiobook says Dark Places "keeps you on the edge of your seat," so maybe don't listen to this one while you're driving.

IMAGES

No Answer
This is how people communicated before the Internet, courtesy of the Telephony Museum, which Libby drives by in Kansas.

Not a Bus Stop
Libby has a car, so she doesn't need to visit the Greyhound Hall of Fame to catch the bus… oh wait… this museum in Kansas she drives by is for the dogs.

The Symbol of Success
You know you've made it big when you've made the biggest Ball of Twine, another roadside attraction Libby doesn't make time to stop at.

Don't Have a Cow
Ben has strong opinions about cows. Here's a Hereford, which Ben describes as "prehistoric, belligerent, mean" (27.2).

And a Jersey
…which Ben thinks is "sweet-looking" (27.2).