I have a meanness inside me, real as an organ. Libby Day was seven when her mother and two sisters were murdered in “The Satan Sacrifice of Kinnakee, Kansas.” As her family lay dying, little Libby fled their tiny farmhouse into the freezing January snow. She lost some fingers and toes, but she survived–and famously testified that her fifteen-year-old brother, Ben, was the killer. Twenty-five years later, Ben sits in prison, and troubled Libby lives off the dregs of a trust created by well-wishers who’ve long forgotten her. The Kill Club is a macabre secret society obsessed with notorious crimes. When they locate Libby and pump her for details–proof they hope may free Ben–Libby hatches a plan to profit off her tragic history. For a fee, she’ll reconnect with the players from that night and report her findings to the club . . . and maybe she’ll admit her testimony wasn’t so solid after all. As Libby’s search takes her from shabby Missouri strip clubs to abandoned Oklahoma tourist towns, the narrative flashes back to January 2, 1985. The events of that day are relayed through the eyes of Libby’s doomed family members–including Ben, a loner whose rage over his shiftless father and their failing farm have driven him into a disturbing friendship with the new girl in town. Piece by piece, the unimaginable truth emerges, and Libby finds herself right back where she started–on the run from a killer.
My take: 2 stars
I just can’t jump on the Gillian Flynn bandwagon, and this book gets me no closer to liking this author. The story is presented from several points of view, and goes back and forth in time in alternating chapters. Flynn’s writing is loose and cumbersome, and could have used a little more editing to tighten up the storyline, while adding space for necessary character development. I found that I could skim quite heavily without missing a beat.
The characters were also very flat. Libby is a grown woman now and stunted emotionally by her past. I didn’t feel the desperation from Patty as a single mom struggling to make ends meet that I think Flynn intended. While Runner was a rascal, he was almost comical in his singular focus on asking for money – like a caricature. The depictions of the daughters read like an afterthought and lacked the detail and depth that could have garnered sympathy from me. Ben was a compilation of every wayward male teen I’ve ever seen in the movies.
The climax was completely unbelievable, and the viewpoints of the peripheral characters at the end felt manufactured to facilitate the reader’s belief in the wrap-up. The only group that I was interested in as a “real” portrayal was the Kill Club. If the rest of the characters were as real as these members seemed, it would have been a much better book. This is probably my last Flynn novel.