I have no experience with Christopher Fowler books, but based on Seventy-Seven Clocks, I won’t be trying out his work again anytime soon. I picked up the book for two dollars at a used book store in Georgetown last September. A crime novel? Okay. A Peculiar Crimes Unit? I’m intrigued!
Right away you know Christopher Fowler is a Sir Arthur Conan Doyle fan, and while I’d like to think this series of crime stories is an homage to Sherlock Holmes, it failed to hook me in every way. Where Doyle was succinct and clever, Fowler was repetitive and predictable.
London Detectives May and Bryant of the Peculiar Crimes Unit have to figure out who’s behind a string of bizarre deaths – rat poison, snake venom, spontaneous explosion – and catch the guy before another member of a large, prominent family dies. The peculiarity of the story is interesting enough to keep reading, but the space between crimes is long and the constant retelling of the facts is boring. I wanted to like this book but indeed I didn’t. I was even tempted to quit halfway through, but there’s something very unnatural about that. I’ve only done it once – with A Casual Vacancy – and it still feels like I abandoned someone.
Let’s move on to a book that rocked my socks off. Dark Places. Good golly.
For all the ways Gone Girl made me question denouements, Dark Places left me wondering what goes on in Gillian Flynn’s head. Does she sleep with a nightlight on? Does her husband keep a constant eye on her, you know, just in case?
Libby Day lives in a very sad reality. She was seven years old when her teenage brother, Ben, murdered their mother and two sisters. Quite violently, in fact. The family was losing their farm, their jerk of a father only came around for hand-outs, and Ben had begun dabbling in devil worship. Two decades later, she’s living on the fringe. Nearly broke, the kleptomaniac has no real relationships, no self-respect, and no hope. She only thinks of suicide casually now, so there’s a plus.
In a desperate need for money (and a subconscious need to find out what really happened all those years ago), Libby agrees to do some detective work on the murders on behalf of the Kill Club, a group of obsessed people who role play and plead innocence for the incarcerated. They all say Ben is not guilty.
Seriously, they’re all so messed up.
The truth finally surfaces, and once I was on the cusp of that truth I couldn’t put down the book. Gillian Flynn – again – tells a completely CRAZY story of people whom I can barely imagine, but she does it so beautifully that you sort of don’t care that Libby isn’t lovable or that the Kill Club people should find other ways to spend their time. Her storytelling is impeccable. Five stars for sure.