- The Good: Hauntingly real portrayals of characters who struggle with addiction, unhealthy relationships, and poverty
- The Bad: As the name implies, this one is dark
- The Literary: Multiple POVs from two alternating timelines that build tension
Libby Day avoids the dark places in her mind, so she doesn’t actively recall her childhood, before or after her mother and sisters were allegedly murdered by her fifteen-year-old brother Ben. But even though Libby doesn’t try to remember her childhood, her untreated depression means she’s never become a fully functional adult. Now Libby is running out of money fast, so when an organization obsessed with gruesome murders contacts her, she agrees to track down old suspects and interview them for a fee.
In the present day, Libby nearly writes off the underground group called the Kill Club that swears her brother is innocent. After all, she’s the one who testified against him, even though she was only a kid at the time. But the more she uncovers, the more people she interviews, the more she bounces ideas off the Kill Club, the more her certainty disappears, for or against Ben.
Back in the 1985 timeline, Patty Day, Libby’s mother, is an exhausted mother of four, barely keeping her farm and her life together. She often feeds the kids ketchup soup and tries to remember to change their sheets if they wet the bed. Her son Ben was always distant, but as a teenager she barely knows him. The second POV in 1985 is fifteen-year-old Ben himself. A natural outcast, Ben has a few older friends who do drugs and perform satanic rituals, but he’s desperate to look cool, fit in, and not be recognized for the poor kid he is.
For me, it’s the characterization that shines in this novel. Libby, Patty, and Ben are all complex, weak, and selfish. They all do horrible things, but even if you don’t forgive them, you do understand their motivations. And in Libby’s case, you root for her to solve the mystery and for her to get better. The mystery itself is the sort that you really wouldn’t be able to figure out with the clues presented. The reveal is jarring, and I had to mull over the ending for several days to even decide if it was satisfying.
Not recommended for readers bothered by murder, filth, underage sex, etc. This is a difficult read about horrible people doing horrible things, but I’m extremely impressed with Flynn’s deep and dark portrayal of the inner workings of abusive, impulsive, and deceitful characters.