Gillian Flynn’s extremely popular mainstream hit Gone Girl had tremendous success as a thriller novel and film. It seemed as if the world came alive for Gone Girl. It was all any moviegoer could talk about for months. It was a movie that I felt lacked something, some artfulness or deeper emotion. It was a piece of pure entertainment, and while the general public consumed it wholeheartedly, I did not. As a writer myself, I look for art in the novel. Language must serve as more than just entertainment. Don’t get me wrong, books and film are entertainment, but they must serve another purpose as well. I felt that Gone Girl did not serve as anything other than a compelling thriller that kept readers and watchers on their toes and entertained. In no way would anyone ever say that Gillian Flynn is a writer of horror, especially from only checking out Gone Girl.
Recently, a mentor of mine suggested I travel back in Flynn’s history and read Dark Places. She explicitly stated that Dark Places was written in the opposite manner of Gone Girl. It was not “written for the entertainment of the masses,” she said. Dark Places is a gritty rumination on the murder of a farming family during a point in history where Satanism was demonized, causing fear from local communities; the novel is gory at times, language sprawling and dark. The difference between Gone Girl and Dark Places is just amazing to see.
Dark Places features language that functions as brooding emotion, character development, and a way for the reader to probe into their own existence. When Libby Day, at seven years old, listens to the murder of her family in the room over, her life is changed, and her path decided. Libby helps send her brother, Ben, to prison for the murders. When Libby’s funds begin to run out, she is compensated by the Kill Club to investigate the truth of that night.
Flynn opens the novel in a hard-hitting way: “I have a meanness inside me, real as an organ. Slit me at my belly and it might slide out, meaty and dark, drop on the floor so you could stomp on it” (1). Flynn’s ability to create vivid, gritty images with the beauty of her language is perfection. Flynn uses the genre of horror in both downplayed ways, such as the most amazing opening line, as well as blatantly. The descriptions of the murders are vivid and nearly unstomachable: “Outside the closed door, where I couldn’t see, my mother was wailing and Ben was bellowing at her. There were other voices too; Debby was sobbing, screaming Mommymommymommymichelle and then there was the sound of an axe. I knew even then what it was. Metal on air – that was the sound – and after the sound of the swing came the sound of a soft thunk and a gurgle and Debby made a grunt and a sound like sucking for air” (42). Flynn’s ability to chill the reader with her descriptions of the murder of a child is horror if I ever had a definition for one. That shiver down a reader’s spine is not easy to create, but Flynn summons these moments with her words.
In no way am I saying that Flynn is the best writer ever. In fact, always be skeptical of writers. I am really just asking us to give her next publication a shot. I see the potential she has to create truly stunning terror and hope that she uses this potential more in the future instead of writing a mindless story for a general public. She has the ability to create shivering scenes and I want to see more of this talent. I just hope you’ll join me in giving her another shot as a horror lover in the future.(4 / 5)
What Have We Done: Alex Finlay Produces Another Hit
- Jenna: A stay at home mom with a secret assassin past
- Donnie: An alcoholic rock star
- Nico: An executive producer of a reality television show
They all have a past, but who is out to get them?
Jenna, Donnie, and Nico share a troubled past. They were all orphans who lived at Savior House — which is much less savior, much more terror. When their friend Benny, a famous judge, is murdered and the FBI comes looking, Jenna, Donnie, and Nico must race against the clock to figure out who is targeting them.
From the author of The Night Shift, which I reviewed here, I would expect nothing less than what Finlay has delivered. Finlay notoriously creates stories with palpable thrill and spine-tingling revelations.
I particularly enjoyed the character of Jenna. She is a reformed assassin living a normal life as a new stepmom. When she is called in to make a hit and her family is threatened, she goes badass mom on ’em. While I still thought Donnie and Nico as characters were engaging, it was nothing for what I felt for Jenna.
Also, major props to Finlay for creating a character that kills with a very unique weapon. Read it to find out more!(5 / 5)
“The Writing Retreat” Gone Bad: Julia Bartz’s Debut
Keeping it all in the family, Julia Bartz’s The Writing Retreat is the debut novel of the sister of Andrea Bartz, author of We Were Never Here, which I reviewed here.
I was much more impressed with The Writing Retreat than I was We Were Never Here.
Five up and coming female writers under 30 are invited to a writing retreat hosted by the reclusive and acclaimed horror writer Rosa Vallo. Rosa reveals the details of the retreat: each writer must complete a full length novel from scratch over the next month. The best novel wins a multi-million dollar publishing deal with Rosa.
Suddenly, the retreat turns into a nightmare when one writer goes missing in the snowy terrain outside.
The novel hinges on friendships in turmoil and has a focus on LGBT+ representation as well as interpersonal female relationships. The novel explores the dark publishing world and the search for fame and the Great American Novel.
This novel is atmospheric and intellectual, page turning, and the English major’s required reading. I absorbed this novel and found Julia Bartz’s writing and conceptual chops to be leagues above her sister’s.
Ths novel releases on February 21, 2023 and it should be in your cart right now.(5 / 5)
Buy it here!
A Murder in Reverse: “Wrong Place Wrong Time”
“A brilliantly genre-bending, mind-twisting answer to the question How far would you go to save your child?” — Ruth Ware, #1 New York Times bestselling author
Jen watches her son murder a stranger. Stab him to death. She and her husband, Kelly, watch as their son Todd is taken into custody.
The next morning, Jen wakes up and it’s yesterday. Jen knows that at the end of the night, her son kills someone. She is determined to stop it.
Jen goes further and further back in time trying to discover why Todd murdered a stranger and how to stop it.
This book is twisty. Right when you think you know the ending, something else is there to prove that the story is more multifaceted than that. While the premise of the novel is simple, Gillian McAllister elevates a simple concept with deep, dark twists.
It is best that you don’t know too much going into this one. For fans of Blake Crouch, this is such a good thriller with time travelling vibes.(4 / 5)