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Dark Places, by Gillian Flynn

After being so impressed with ‘Gone Girl’ by Gillian Flynn, I recently downloaded one of her other novels, ‘Dark Places’, to my Kindle. I generally don’t use my Kindle very often, but it’s been practically glued to my hand while I’ve been reading this novel. It was that good.

‘Dark Places’ begins with Libby Day, the anti-heroine. Libby’s two sisters and their mother, Patty, were brutally murdered at the family home in Kansas 25 years previously – the subject matter and setting show a definite nod to ‘In Cold Blood’ by Truman Capote. The killer was suspected to be Libby’s brother, Ben. At the time, seven-year old Libby testified in court that Ben had committed the crime. As a result, combined with rumours in the town that Ben was practising satanic rituals, among other accusations, Ben is imprisoned. But years on Libby begins to doubt her own memories of the murder. Ben Day has built up quite a fan club of people who believe him to be innocent, and they encourage her to trace down people who may shed light on what really happened that night.

Libby was a really interesting character, she believes herself to be a bad person – the opening line of the book reads ‘I have a meanness inside me, real as an organ’. Libby steals things, uses people, and pushes away those who have tried to help. I enjoy the way that Flynn creates characters that aren’t particularly likeable, but are really intriguing. We learn so much about them that we begin to understand why they behave the way that they do. I’ve watched a video of Gillian Flynn talking about the book on YouTube, and found it interesting that she initially wrote most of the first draft with Libby as a ‘nice normal girl’. She then significantly rewrote the character as it is unlikely that Libby would be completely unaffected after the murders. I am glad that she did this as I think it added more layers to the character.

The narration of the book switches between Libby in the present day, and Ben and Patty 25 years ago. This gives the book momentum and there certainly isn’t a dull moment. The reader is constantly discovering new clues, and I kept changing my mind about who I thought was the killer. It wasn’t who I initially suspected, but I’ll say no more as I don’t want to spoil the plot.

I found the ending of the book very satisfying, as all the fragments came together. It was definitely a good book to be reading around Halloween time. I have also downloaded ‘Sharp Objects’ which I’m looking forward to starting on soon – I think I may read something else in the mean time so I don’t compare it too much to this novel. IMG_1278

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Lucy Worsley speaks about Murder at Octagon Theatre, Sheffield

I don’t know how Lucy Worsley does it, she has managed to produce several successful books and TV programs while also having one of the coolest day jobs going, as Chief Curator of Historic Royal Palaces. I am a big fan of Lucy Worsley. I love history, and Lucy makes history fun and inviting to a wide audience. For a while now I have been an avid watcher of her TV programs, and when I saw that she was going to be giving a talk in Sheffield I knew that I couldn’t miss it. Luckily my friend Laura is a big fan too. So on Saturday evening we set off for Sheffield.

When we arrived, my eyes widened when I saw how many people were there – 600 fans filled the theatre. I knew she was popular but I definitely expected it to be a smaller audience! When she appeared on stage, a wave of excitement spread. Lucy is currently sporting a new ‘do, so her first words were ‘hello, you may have noticed that I have new hair.’ Apparently, it was either a fringe or a tattoo – so she went for the fringe.

Lucy spent about an hour discussing the British fascination with murder throughout a few different time periods. She is a skilled communicator and delivered her speech with ease and eloquence, peppered with some rather amusing slide show images. She spoke about famous murder cases, such as the gruesome ‘red barn’ murder, and how scenes inspired by this had been made into pottery figures and used as conversation starters to ‘really get the party started’.

After her talk was over, I dashed to the book stall to buy a copy of ‘If Walls Could Talk’ so I could get it signed. Laura had brought along ‘Courtiers: The Secret History of the Georgian Court’. We ran to the join the signing queue, which quickly became rather long. Despite having a long queue to get through, Lucy was happy to take pictures and have a little chat with everyone. Lucy was so nice when Laura and I got to the front, I think we were both a bit star struck and we definitely let out a few squeals once we had left (we were cool enough to leave before doing that!).

I left being even more of a Lucy Worsley fan than I was when I entered. I can’t wait to read my new book!