Dark Places Summary

Gillian Flynn

Dark Places

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Dark Places Summary

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Dark Places, a mystery by Gillian Flynn published in 2009, deals with class issues in rural America, as well as intense poverty and the Satanic cult hysteria that swept the United States in the 1980s.

Libby Day, the novel’s narrator and protagonist, is the sole survivor of a massacre in the fictional rural town Kinnakee, Kansas. Libby reveals that several members of her family were murdered when she was only seven years old. To make matters worse, the alleged killer was her older brother, Ben. After the murders of her two sisters and mother, in what appeared to be a Satanic cult ritual, Libby escaped through a window and later testified in court against her teenage brother.

Libby has been living off inheritance money and the funds that were raised to help take care of her after the murders of her family members, given that she was so young. Now, twenty-five years after the massacre, Libby is running out of money and does not have any employable skills.

Lyle, who runs the Kill Club, approaches Libby. The Kill Club is a group that is obsessed with studying crimes and criminals. They are fascinated with Libby because many of the members believe Ben is innocent. Lyle is willing to pay Libby to speak with them, and she agrees because she needs the money.

The club members, who are amateur investigators, bring up a lot of details the police either missed or ignored, pointing out that Libby’s testimony was forced, given that she did not actually see any of the murders. It did not help that during the 80s, everyone was afraid of satanic cults, and supposedly, Ben committed the murders because he was part of such a cult. The club members, however, believe her brother is innocent of the crime. Through this investigation, Libby learns of her brother’s secret girlfriend, Diondra, as well as accusations against her brother for child molestation, which negatively affected his reputation in town even if he had not committed child molestation.

Interspersed with the modern day investigation are flashbacks to the day of the massacre. These flashbacks are told from the points of view of Libby’s mother, Patty, and Libby’s convicted brother, Ben. Patty discusses the difficulties of trying to keep the family farm while raising four children alone; Ben tells his story of a troubled teenager who gets mixed up with a bad crowd. These viewpoints paint a picture of a grim life of desperate poverty, marital abuse, and abandonment on the farm prior to the murder.

At first, Libby does not believe the club members, but she needs to keep seeing the group because they are paying her. After a few more visits, she finally gets up the courage and agrees to see her brother in prison, something she has never before done. After speaking with him, she starts to accept that he is not the killer, but she knows he is holding something back.

As time passes, Libby is slowly able to piece together what happened. When she finds out about Ben’s former girlfriend, Diondra, Libby manages to track her down. She meets not only Diondra, but also Ben’s child, Crystal. Crystal lets it slip that Diondra murdered one of Libby’s sisters because she knew about the pregnancy. They try to murder Libby, but she is once again able to escape.

With the help of Lyle, Libby is able to uncover additional evidence about the crime. She learns that Ben and Diondra were going to run away together to raise their child. They stopped at the farm to take whatever money they could get. At the same time, Patty had made a deal to arrange her own death. She knew she could not care for her family, but if they had the insurance money from her passing, she figured they might have a chance. The murderer showed up at the same time Ben and Diondra arrived at the house. Libby’s other sister got caught in the crossfire, along with Patty. Ben got blamed for everything because of his negative reputation in town. He stayed silent because he wanted to protect Diondra.

With everything they learn, Libby and Lyle are able to present the new evidence to the police, and Ben is finally freed from prison. Ben does not know what he wants to do with his life because he has been behind bars for so long. He feels as if the world is still against him. However, he is determined to make things work with Libby’s help. Libby is finally able to move on from what happened that horrible night. By the end of the book she, too, is hopeful for the future.