Hmm... Not as impressed by the plot twist in Dark Places as the other two Gillian Flynn Novels. But still an interesting read. I guess it's the best I could hope for, given the build-up. Every character was equally suspicious right up to the reveal so I wasn't very surprised. In fact I kind of figured who it would be towards the end, before I'd read it. There was another surprise though, it wasn't really a big shocking twist, but more like an interesting revelation.
I still think Sharp Objects is the best. It's a classic mystery. I established my first suspect right from the start, then as the story progressed I started to sympathize with that person while shifting my suspicion onto someone else. And just when I was certain I knew how the story would end, the tables suddenly turned and the person whom I first suspected but gradually forgot all about, and even accepted as a fellow victim of the situation, turned out to be the culprit after all. Genius writing! It's hard to pull something like that off. I'm usually pretty on point with predicting the plot based on how the story is told, like I did for Gone Girl and now Dark Places. But the twist in Sharp Objects completely took me by surprise.
The sign of a good mystery is when all the cards are laid out on the table, but your attention is deliberately drawn away from a few key cards until the crucial moment. Sharp Objects was like that. The cards were all on the table, the characters and their queer habits had all been introduced, and yet Gillian Flynn concealed the culprit so well, lured the readers into obsessing over a different suspect without making it too obvious that she was trying to distract us.
I say this because I'm now comparing the novels to the TV series I very recently binge-watched, How To Get Away With Murder, which is also a mystery story. And I realised that as exciting as the series may be, they actually withhold facts until it's time to introduce the twist. They keep some of the events a secret until the big reveal, which is kind of cheating in a way. It's like you're not allowing your viewers to do the detective work because you're withholding key information, only spoonfeeding us what you want us to see for now to FORCE us into a limited spectrum of speculation, which is unfair.
Gillian Flynn lays everything out in the open, take your pick, choose your suspect. Then with careful storytelling she maneuvers your train of thought around without cheating you of the facts, besides what the main character doesn't already know. Everything is told chronologically, as and when it happens, as the main character experiences it, and you are witnessing everything with the main character, solving the mystery alongside this person. You're not some third-party viewer who's only being fed half-truths, a fraction of the story at a time. Of course you wouldn't be able to solve it then. Of course the character would come to a conclusion before you did.
I give you an example. In one of the earlier episodes, we see one of the main characters standing over a dead body. He picks up the murder weapon, planning to hide it, and mutters "I'm sorry." Then the scene cuts and we carry on with the story. And then all of a sudden, to introduce a new twist in the plot, they replay that same scene. But this time, instead of cutting off after he says sorry, they conveniently inject an extra part, a convenient continuation, and you hear someone else say "Don't be." and it's suddenly revealed that another character was there all along. -_-
Another earlier example would be when the same main character suddenly and conveniently remembers witnessing a suspect hiding something in his toilet, a shot that had once again been conveniently withheld when the scene first played out, and conveniently slipped back in during a replay when it was time for the reveal. -_- It's like, ok, of course I didn't see that coming, I wasn't even given a chance to. It's like there's no point in speculating at all because they don't even allow you the possibility of getting it right.
It's a mystery dictatorship!!!! >=[
Ok end of rant. I suppose one could say it's just different ways of telling a mystery story. Well I just think more respect should be given to the storytellers who don't keep secrets from you, and yet still manage to surprise in the end.