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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 drunk in about half of the scenes he appears in.
- All Girls Want Bad Boys: Patty's initial attraction to Runner. Needless to say, that goes downhill quickly.
- Alliterative Name: Krissi Cates.
- An Arm and a Leg: Downplayed, but Libby ends up with three toes and part of her ring finger amputated after spending all night hiding in the cornfields.
- Debby's arm is almost cut clean off when she's killed.
- Berserk Button: Diondra goes crazy when Ben suggests she have an abortion. She kills Michelle to keep her telling anyone.
- Libby does not like being hit.
- 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.
- 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 killed many people, so he understands how she must feel.
- Book Dumb: Libby notes that Runner has the handwriting (and spelling) of a child.
- Boomerang Bigot: Trey makes a point of not dating Indian chicks, even though he is half Indian.
- Bratty Teenage Daughter: Diondra, at first glance
- Michelle is a prepubescent version.
- Bystander Syndrome: Runner knew Ben had gotten Diondra pregnant, but he replies when Libby asks him why he never told anyone, "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.
- Children Are Innocent: Which is why Calvin Diehl has a Heel-Face Turn.
- 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.
- Embarrassing Nickname: An unusual self-inflicted version- Libby calls herself "Baby Day" when she's feeling particularly hateful.
- Fat Idiot: Debby is a somewhat downplayed version.
- 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 only partially works.
- Fiery Redhead: Averted with Patty.
- Libby plays it straighter, although she does bleach her hair blonde.
- 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 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.
- Hormone-Addled Teenager: Ben is sexually active at fifteen.
- 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.
- 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
- Mama Bear: Surprisingly enough, Diondra. She kills Michelle, a ten-year-old, to keep her quiet about her pregnancy, and then prepares to kill Libby for Crystal's sake.
- Patty. She pays a man to kill her to save both her children and the farm from financial ruin.
- My God, What Have I Done?: Calvin Diehl's reaction when he kills Debby.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: If Patty had never hired Diehl, then she and Debby would not have died and Ben wouldn't have been pegged as The Scapegoat to their murders.
- 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's not outright abusive, but he constantly belittles Ben and seems only vaguely aware of his daughters.
- Parents as People: Patty. She loves her children, but she finds it very hard to deal with Ben's strange behaviour and three daughters while trying to keep her parent's farm afloat.
- Protector Behind Bars: Subverted, Ben is behind bars because he is protecting Diondra and Crystal for Michelle's death.
- Rich in Dollars, Poor in Sense: Diondra.
- 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.
- 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.)
- 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: Trey softens up after his aggressive teenager years.
- 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: '"I'm here" said the Day Girl.'.
- 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, at least he insists "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.