Dark Places by Gillian Flynn (2009)
Dark Places directed by Gilles Paquet-Brenner (2015)
I am so happy to have a guest for todays’ episode, we have Shannon who has a booktube channel plus is an author! She has published a novella, Since September, and is currently writing a novel!
Dark Places feels like the perfect book/movie to have you on for because from what I’ve seen from your channel, you do seem to gravitate towards darker stories and heavy topics. Your book Since September is a thriller.
Libby Day is in her early 30’s and we learn that her family (mom and two sisters) were killed by her brother when she was seven. Her brother is in jail and since turning 18, she hasn’t had to get a job because she lives off the money that has been donated to her through the years because Day murders were so famous.
Her money is about to run out though, and when she gets an offer from a guy named Lyle to show up at this convention for true crime fanatics, she agrees.
A lot of people think that Ben, her brother, is innocent and because she needs money, she agrees to investigate the murders and talks with different people to learn the truth of it all.
In flashbacks, we see that her brother hung out with a bad crowd that are into satanic stuff and he is dating a girl who is very unstable and he has gotten her pregnant.
We also see that the mom is in a desperate financial situation, plus Ben is wanted by the cops because they think he molested 11 years olds (which isn’t true).
Anyway, long story short, we and Libby learn that one sister was killed by Diondre (Ben’s crazy girlfriend) and the mom and the sister were killed by an assisted suicide guy the mom had hired. He was only supposed to kill the mom, but a daughter was also killed in the process.
Ben wanted to protect Diondre and his unborn child, so he took the fall for the murders. He was also a dumb 15 year old and in general didn’t handle the situation well.
This was definitely an edge of your seat read, and it kept me guessing on who the killer was. I enjoyed getting the different perspectives and overall, I thought it was very well written and has great characterization.
However, I only gave it 3.5 but that really comes down to personal preference. It is about a “true crime” murder and it shows how obsessed true crime fanatics can be. I don’t like reading actual true crime stories because I find it too upsetting to read about the horrific things that are done in real life. Even though this was a novel, it just brought to mind the terrible things that are done in real life. Like I said though, it does show how messed up these fanatics can be, not really thinking about the real-life people that had to go through these terrible things.
The details of the murders and their dead bodies was also just too descriptive for me as well as a scene where Ben and his “friends” kill a cow in a ritual. Just too dark for my taste. And I have never read a book that dealt with devil worship type stuff and I just found it too dark and disturbing.
Libby isn’t exactly likable, but I thought her character seemed so realistic as to what a person who survived such a traumatic event would actually be like. So often we are shown these people through rose colored glasses and are told stories about how strong they are and how they have overcome their past and have moved on to be healthy adults. We even see how this idea is shown through the book Libby “writes”, as if she has become this healthy adult.
There is a part where she is trying to think of what kind of job she could get, and she realizes the way she pictures these careers is unrealistic and it says, “That’s how screwed up you are, I thought. Your idea of adulthood still comes from picturebooks.”
In the movie, her apartment looks like a hoarder, with junk just piled everywhere and it is a total mess. This isn’t how I imagined her place looking when I read the book and I don’t think it is described that way. I think the movie chose this as a way to visually show the headspace Libby is in, since the movie can’t take us into her mind the way the book can.
The movie does give us a lot of narration as Libby fills us in on different things, but I didn’t like this and felt it was overused.
In the book we hear how she was moved from one family member to the next, because she was such a difficult, mean child. Dianne had her initially but Libby admits that she tormented Dianne and even “accidently” kills Dianne’s dog.
In present day, we learn that Dianne hasn’t talked to her since the book came out. However, as she starts to investigate the murders, she gives Dianne a call but doesn’t hear back from her. In the end, she drives up to Dianne’s trailer and Dianne says something about how she knew Libby had it in her, and what Libby asks had what in me, Dianne says, the ability to try harder. I loved this scene because it really does show how much Libby really has grown and she is becoming less selfish and lazy.
In the movie we don’t learn about Libby’s childhood, though she does tell Ben that she has “killed things”. We also hear that Dianne has since died.
I really liked the character of Lyle in the book. He has personal reasons for being interested in Libby’s case because he himself knows what it is like to be a dumb kid who made a bad choice and things spiraled out of control. He also says the reason people like true crime so much is because of the mystery, saying, “It’s an insane, insane crime, a lot of it isn’t going to make sense. That’s why people are so obsessed with these murders. If they made any sense, they wouldn’t really be mysteries, right?”
In the book we see their relationship grow closer when he invites her to his birthday dinner, saying it is only close friends. Implying that he considers her a close friend. We also have the moment at the end when we see that Libby has DNA evidence of Diondre because she had stolen a few things from her bathroom. They are both so excited and share this moment.
Which by the way, in book and movie we see that Libby is constantly stealing small items. In the book this comes around when she is visiting Diondre and steals lipstick and something else from the bathroom. When police say they need DNA evidence but don’t have any, Libby remembers the stolen items which have her DNA. In the movie this isn’t a thing, so her stealing ends up serving no purpose in the end.
We know Flynn loves her female villains, and Diondre was a great character, in the worst way. I was confused in both book and movie why she was even into Ben, but I suppose he is someone who is easy to manipulate and that is what drew her to him.
In the book we see even more how mean she is to Ben and how she and Trey would belittle him constantly. Whenever he did something wrong or embarrassing, or even something that was embarrassing, they pounced on it and made him feel stupid and weak. There is a scene in the book where Trey stumbles as he is undressing and Diondre makes a point to look away, to spare Trey the embarrassment of her seeing him like that. Ben notices this and how Diondre has never granted him that kind of grace.
In book and movie, we see adult Ben has a tattoo of a name that ends in “lly” and he says it is the name of a woman he thought he was in love with.
In the book, we get a flashback to when Ben first meets Diondre and she gives him a fake name, then tells him the truth later of what her real name is.
A big reveal that happens in book and movie, is that Diondre is still alive and is using a fake name-Polly. This is a great reveal in the book that I hadn’t seen coming.
Libby meeting Diondre
When Libby goes and finds Diondre, I love how Diondre was happy to see her and knew she would find her one day. We meet her and Ben’s daughter and they talk about how they are each other’s best friends. They do have a close relationship, but we can also see how it is unhealthy for a variety of reason.
In the book, the daughter lets slip a piece of information she had known about Libby’s sister, and Libby realizes she must know this because they have the diary, and therefore Diondre must have been involved in the murders. In the book, the daughter then hits Libby in the side of the head and they are going to kill her but Libby ends up escaping and calls Lyle to come get her.
In the movie, the daughter doesn’t slip any information, but they do try to kill her but once again she escapes.
The character of Runner, the dad, is the same in book and movie. He is a deadbeat and at the time of the killings, he had been a drug dealer, and he owed Trey money. When Libby finds him later, he is a homeless person living in this old chemical dumping ground and he isn’t helpful at all aside from telling Libby Diondre had been pregnant.
By the way, in the book Ben tells Runner that Diondre is pregnant with his child and he says this is a way that he hopes Runner will be impressed by. In both, Runner replies saying, you better make sure it’s yours because I doubt it is. In the movie, he adds a line about how Ben is worthless and why would a girl like Diondre want to be with him.
Book vs Movie
I liked that the movie wasn’t as grisly in the book. They have the cow killing scene, but I skipped over that part. The murder’s aren’t as graphic though. However, the movie was very lacking. I usually love Theron, but as Libby, she not only doesn’t look the part, but I found her acting off. Christina Hendricks and Tye Sheridan were good in their roles but couldn’t save the story. It is a fairly faithful adaption, but it lacked the suspense of the book and the acting by some was dull.