Here's the thing. I was sort of happy to read this, even though dark fiction isn't really my thing, because it was partly set in my stomping grounds. A book set in Kansas City? Woot! Bring it!
I should have known better - I should have known a book about the train-wrecked lives of the survivors of a prairie style satanic axe/knife/gun/strangulation murder of a family would probably not really paint the picture of Midwest life that I was so hoping. I know, surprise, surprise. Sometimes my optimism shocks even me.
Libby Day, youngest daughter of the Day family, survived a brutal night that took her entire family from her, killing her two sisters and mother, and jailing Ben Day, her only brother and presumed murderer. Twenty-four years later, Libby is out of charity money, utterly broke and the very definition of maladjusted.
Desperate to avoid working for money, Libby finds a unique opportunity with a local group called the Kill Club. This club of amateur sleuths dedicated to solving cold cases believes that Ben Day is innocent and is willing to pay Libby to help them solve the murder. Libby finds that the truth becomes more irresistible to her than she previously imagined. She becomes brave, digging through her past, both in boxes and on doorsteps, until she uncovers the dangerous and devastating truth.
I commend Gillian's tight plotting. I love when a story is crafted well from beginning to end and you can visualize the loop towards the close. What wasn't so great for me was that I had the mystery nearly guessed. Sort of took the wind out of the sails at the climax.
This wasn't so dark that I loathed everything - the characters were appropriately messed up, if I may state it that way, and not quite as off putting as I imagined. It didn't put me off from trying another and think that I will Sharp Objects a try.
Camille Preaker is a reporter in Chicago. Her boss thinks it would be a good idea for her to return to her hometown in Missouri to cover the murder of two preteen girls before someone else gets hold of the story first. To say Camille does not get along with her mother is an understatement - she is a neurotic, hypochondriac who never showed her daughter any love. And she doesn't know her half-sister, Amma - a popular, mean girl who seems to run the town. But here she is back at her childhood home, staying in her old bedroom. And she uncovers one ugly truth after the other.
Wow. What a messed up family. Something definitely was not right within the walls of the Crellin's old mansion, you could feel it. I really liked Camille, I felt sorry for her having to grow up like that and the actions she took to try to cope or punish herself. And I did like Amma. She felt very three-dimensional to me. The pace of the story was great. We get clues here and there. But I did not expect that ending!
The Satan Sacrifice of Kinnakee, Kansas of 1985 has left an indelible mark on Libby Day. She survived and her older brother was put away for killing his mother and 2 of his 3 younger sisters. Libby was shuffled from house to house as a kid and once she made it to adulthood, charity provided her a life with little responsibilities. Now the money has run out and Libby has to move on with her life one way or another, such as getting a job. However, she has no life skills. So when she’s approached by Lyle Wirth from The Kill Club about selling some childhood mementos and perhaps giving a talk about her past, she’s tempted by the money. It’s the first step to delving into her past and with that comes a path forward to the rest of her life.
I picked this one up on a whim. I was looking for something a bit darker, something with some mystery to it, and this book did not disappoint. The author gave me so many characters that were absolutely fascinating even if they weren’t likable. There were times when I wanted to both slap Libby and root for her. She has more strength in her than she knows and through this journey she learns a little about that. The tale is dark and at times rather gritty and yet there is so much hope in this story. Libby survived a horrendous thing and yet she has done nothing with her life other than skate by. Her brother, Ben, was in a difficult, frustrated place before the event and Libby hasn’t spoken to him since that day. Ben hasn’t been able to tell the full truth of the event all these years. Then there’s Lyle, who’s part of this Kill Club. I was on the fence about him for much of the book but in the end I liked him.
Speaking of that Kill Club – what a creepy idea! Though I wouldn’t be surprised if there were such things. Think scifi convention except it’s for folks who closely follow serial murders or massacres or unsolved murder cases. Many of the participants are retired police or investigators. Some of the more macabre participants dress up as the perpetrators or victims. All of them have their own theories of how things went down. The Day Massacre (AKA the Satan Sacrifice of Kinnakee) is no exception. I really felt for Libby when she met with these folks and some of them were down right combative over the facts of the case. And yet it’s also so obvious that Libby has never really reflected on that night, peered into her memory and taken stock of the known facts. Once again, I had split feelings towards the Kill Club. I wanted to tell them to get a real hobby but also applaud them for pushing Libby into exploring the little mysteries about that night that were still unanswered. It takes a talented author to keep pushing me as a reader in this fashion.
The hunt for the truth was well done. There are flashbacks throughout the tale told from both Ben Day’s teen self and also from Libby’s mom’s point of view. Patty Day was in a tricky place back then, trying to raise all her kids on her own, working all the time, and occasionally getting a shake down from her ex-husband. As Libby looks through her childhood mementos (trying to decide what to sell to the Kill Club enthusiasts), memories come back and she has questions she wants answered. There’s plenty of characters showing off their darker sides and then there’s some characters that simply made bad mistakes.
The ending had a twist that I didn’t see coming until just before it happened. Wow! Yeah. That explained several things but was also tough and touching at the same time. People are capable of great evil but also capable of great sacrifice. This book is definitely one I will be thinking about for some time to come.
The Narration: The narration was really good for this book. I’m not sure who did which roles, but all the character voices were distinct and each narrator did a great job with voices for the opposite sex. Rebecca Lowman, Cassandra Campbell, Mark Deakins, and Robertson Dean made a great cast for this book. Whichever lady that voiced Libby did such a lovely job with her myriad of feelings. Sometimes Libby was snotty and disrespectful and sometimes she was thoughtful and trying her best to absorb some hard truths. The main voice actor for Ben did a great job there as well. He was a teen boy in a house full of females struggling to impress his fellow highschoolers and he sounded every inch of it.