2 Days Left to Support a Troper-Created Project : Personal Space (discuss)

Literature / Dark Places

The second crime novel by Gillian Flynn. Libby Day was seven years old when her evidence put her fifteen year-old brother behind bars.

Since then, she's been drifting. But when she is contacted by a group who are convinced of Ben's innocence, Libby starts to ask questions she never dared to before. She begins to realise that everyone had something to hide that day...especially Ben. Now, twenty-four years later, the truth is going to be even harder to find.

Who did massacre the Day family?

Tropes included in Dark Places:

  • Abusive Parents: Diondra's parents leave her alone for months at a time, with just three dogs for company. Diondra is seventeen. And Diondra's father threatens to kill her if she ever has sex outside of marriage.
  • The Alcoholic: Runner is stumbling-drunk in about half of the scenes he appears in, and otherwise buzzed. Krissi ends up one too.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Patty's initial attraction to Runner. Needless to say, that goes downhill quickly.
  • Alliterative Name: Krissi Cates and Debby Day. Also Diondra's pseudonym of Polly Palm.
  • An Arm and a Leg: Debby gets her arm sliced nearly clean off during the massacre. Libby also gets three toes amputated thanks to frostbite.
  • Berserk Button: Diondra goes crazy when Ben suggests she have an abortion. She kills Michelle to keep her from telling anyone.
    • Libby does not like being punched.
  • Big Brother Instinct:
    • Played with. Ben yells at Libby to stay away from the house to protect her from Diondra, but he does very little to stop Diondra strangling Michelle, and does nothing to stop the murders of the rest of his family, albeit there wasn't a lot he could have done against an axe-wilding hitman. Once Diondra gets arrested, he resolves to spend the remainder of his life watching out for Libby.
    • Diane towards Patty.
  • Birds of a Feather: Lyle admits to Libby the reason why he sticks with her is because when he was a kid, he accidentally started a wildfire that ruined many lives, so he understands how she must feel.
  • Boomerang Bigot: Trey makes a point of not dating Indian chicks, even though he is half Indian. One of the hints about how deeply the racism of Kinnakee affects him.
  • Bratty Teenage Daughter:
    • Diondra, at first glance, though it's fairly easy to see why.
    • Michelle and Krissi are a prepubescent versions.
  • Butch Lesbian: Diane, though it isn't really touched upon much.
  • Byronic Hero: Ben and Libby both have shades of this, being turbulent, troubled and intelligent. Ben's need for emotional validation and Libby's depression diminish this a bit.
  • Bystander Syndrome: Runner knew Ben had gotten Diondra pregnant, but when Libby asks him why he never told anyone, he replies, "Well, how's that my business?"
  • Chekhov's Gun: Plenty. Michelle's diary, Diondra's lipstick, the underwear Ben buys, Libby's kleptomania, Ben's "Polly" tattoo. And the footprint of a man's dress shoe in blood.
  • Chekhov's Gunman : Calvin Diehl, who is mentioned in passing at the Kill Club meeting as the "Angel of Debt" killer.
  • Children Are Innocent: Which is why Calvin Diehl's one and only My God, What Have I Done?.
  • The Ditz: Debby, at least according to Ben.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: Diondra's father. He threatens to shoot his daughter in the head if she has sex before marriage. Diondra mentions to Ben he was in the Vietnam War by way of explanation.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: An unusual self-inflicted version- Libby calls herself "Baby Day" when she's feeling particularly hateful.
    • Bullies at Ben's school call him "Ben Gay".
  • Fallen Princess: Krissi Cates. She goes from a cute, rich, precocious kid to a borderline-alcoholic stripper who's parents want nothing to do with her all because of the lies she told as a little girl.
  • Fiery Coverup: After Libby escapes Diondra and Crystal, they torch the house down and flee the scene before Libby can go to the police. It would have worked, if not for Libby's kleptomaniac tendencies.
  • Fille Fatale: Krissi Cates- she kisses and later lies about Ben, saying he molested her.
  • The Gadfly: Patty notes that Runner's bizarre way of showing affection (if it could be called that) for his kids was by mildly irritating them.
  • Girls Love Stuffed Animals: Michelle and Debby seemed to- Michelle liked to pile them on her bed and pretend to have 'sleepovers' with them.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Libby notes that since the massacre, she lost the ability to control her anger, mostly as a teenager.
  • Hormone-Addled Teenager: Ben is sexually active at fifteen, and it gets him into massive amounts of trouble.
  • I Want to Be a Real Man: It was something of an obsession for teenaged Ben, especially given his utter lack of a father figure around and other men automatically perceiving him as weak.
  • In the Blood: Libby tells Ben, "I know a little bit about trying to do the right thing and fucking up completely." Ben comments she could have been talking about the whole family.
  • Lack of Empathy: Different flavors all around; most of the problems the characters face stem from various failures to show - or receive - empathy from one another. Special points go to Runner, Patti's neighbors (who buy the farming equipment she needs at a dirt-cheap price and engage in (inaccurate) Slut-Shaming years after her death) and [[Loony Fan The Kill Club]], who don't see any harm in bombarding a Sole Survivor with questions, laughing/jeering her down when she doesn't instantly accept Ben's innocence and generally treating her horribly. (Magda in particular seems more interested in getting Ben out of Jail than she is in raising her own teenage son. Libby herself lacks empathy for others, but the massacre messed her up enough that it's not surprising.
  • Long-Lost Relative: Crystal, Ben's daughter and Libby's niece.
  • Loose Lips: If Crystal had never mentioned the name of Michelle's old middle-school crush, Libby might have never figured out that Diondra was involved in Michelle's death.
  • Loser Sonof Loser Dad
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Calvin Diehl's reaction when he kills Debby, and gives Patty a messy death.
  • Not Me This Time: Calvin admits to killing Debby, the only murder he was ever sorry for, but he genuinely didn't see Michelle.
  • Parental Neglect:
    • Runner. He mostly shows up to beg money from Patty and alternate between belittling his kids and playing it off as a joke, but otherwise he's never around.
    • Patty isn't as bad as Runner, but she's so depressed with her life she often finds it impossible to really attend to her children: feed them properly, drive them to school, clean the house. Once she made Ben bike in the winter to his school because she didn't have the energy to get them there. Libby notes that she did at least try her best.
    • Diondra's parents leave her alone for months at a time totally unsupervised.
  • Parents as People: Patty. She loves her children, but she finds it very hard to deal with Ben's strange behavior and three daughters while trying to keep her parent's farm afloat.
  • Red Herring: Scattered in. Len's dress shoes get their own special mention, a clue that perhaps he's the killer. Each of the three types of murder weapons are used on the cows during Ben's sacrifice, indicating it might have been all three (in fact, none of those weapons were used then, and only one of them is a killer.)
  • Rich in Dollars, Poor in Sense: Diondra, and her younger cousins are the same way.
  • The Runt at the End: Libby got this treatment a lot when she was younger, mainly from Michelle.
  • The Scapegoat: Ben, as it turns out, but he allowed it to protect Diondra and Crystal, his daughter.
  • Snooping Little Kid: Michelle. And it gets her killed.
  • So Proud of You: Diane's reaction after Libby finally uncovers the truth.
  • Sole Survivor: Poor Libby.
  • Sticky Fingers: Libby steals little things from each house she goes to. And this proves very important in the climax so she can match Diondra's DNA to the blood on Michelle's mattress.
  • Stopped Caring: Libby has elements of this at the beginning of the novel, living off money she made selling her story as a kid and she occasionally contemplates suicide when feeling particularly low. She slowly gets out of this, with some help from Lyle.
  • Strong Family Resemblance: Everybody tells Libby she resembles Patty, even with her hair dyed blonde.
  • Survivor Guilt: Libby- she calls herself 'a coward' for running when she heard her mother and her sisters screaming. Note she was only seven years old.
  • Tagalong Kid: How Trey treated Ben during the flashbacks.
  • This Is Unforgivable!:
    • Diane finally kicked Libby out after Libby killed Diane's dog. (Albeit she was provoked and it was mostly accidental.)
    • This is how Krissi Cates' parents responded when Krissi admitted she lied about Ben molesting her.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Not so much in looks, but Diane is the outspoken, take-action sister compared to Patty.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Libby grows throughout the book. Becoming more proactive, she also becomes more inclined to do kind things, in her own way. Like ensuring that Krissi leaves with the lotion bottles Krissi stole from her, knowing the emotional validation was necessary to her.
    • Trey, once he grows up and gets out of Kinnakee.
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behaviour: All over the place. Ben drinks, is sexually active, smokes dope and kills a cow because he wanted to impress Trey and Diondra and he's only fifteen, Michelle spies on and blackmails people and Krissi Cates both kisses and spreads vicious rumours about Ben. The only 'normal' child in the novel seems to have been Debby.
  • Wham Line: A few:
    • '"I'm here" said the Day Girl.'.
    • "Shhh, the baby's kicking."
  • Would Hurt a Child:
    • Diondra outright strangles Michelle and she likely would have killed Libby if Ben had agreed to bring her back.
    • Calvin Diehl kills Debby, but he certainly didn't want to and views this as crossing the Moral Event Horizon.
  • Wouldn't Hurt a Child: Runner insists, rather randomly, "I don't kill girls. I wouldn't kill a little girl."
  • Your Days Are Numbered: Runner tells Libby he has cirrhosis of the liver. With his drinking habits, it's not much of a surprise.
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