Reviews > Published on March 2nd, 2015

Bookshots: 'Dark Rooms' by Lili Anolik

Bookshots: Pumping new life into the corpse of the book review


Dark Rooms

Who wrote it:

Lili Anolik, contributing editor at Vanity Fair.  

Crime fiction lovers have some intelligent, gritty writing to look forward to in 'Dark Rooms.'

Plot in a Box: 

Although the perpetrator of her sister’s murder is quickly named, a recent prep school graduate becomes obsessed with finding an alternate explanation for the crime.

Invent a new title for this book:

My Sister’s Reflection

Read this if you like:

Gillian Flynn or Tana French.

Meet the book's lead:

Grace, a somewhat introverted young woman who stood in the shadow of her sister, Nica, when she was alive.

Said lead would be portrayed in a movie by:

I could see Rooney Mara as Grace.

Setting: Would you want to live there?

I've spent the majority of my life in small New England towns with their own ivy-covered prep schools and shady dealings, so the setting was a very familiar one to me. So yes, I guess I would live there.

What was your favorite sentence?

I haven't even stepped all the way inside the front door when the smell hits me: a kind of stale fustiness, a combination of dust and old furniture, of meals cooked and eaten, of frayed carpeting. If sadness has a scent, this is it.

The Verdict:

Dark Rooms begins with the murder of a young, beautiful girl. It’s not the first novel written about the untimely death of a popular youth (and it certainly won’t be the last), but Anolik still manages to make the story her own. The author is especially adept at creating an ideal pace. Events are set like a baited hook, leading the reader to perpetually guess at what’s around the bend. Almost immediately after Nica’s murder, the perfect culprit surfaces when a young man implicates himself in a suicide note. But a quick glance at the number of pages left makes it abundantly clear that there’s more to this tragedy than meets the eye.

There have been some comparisons made by the press between Dark Rooms and the cult television show Twin Peaks, but (having just binge watched Twin Peaks during the last massive blizzard to hit the Northeast) I feel like that’s a somewhat inaccurate jump. Dark Rooms is a pretty serious piece of fiction throughout, with none of the campiness present in the early ‘90s crime drama. They may share a few themes, and I’m not judging the two stories against each other; it just seems like an apples to oranges sort of statement.

It’s interesting to watch Grace change as the narrative progresses, because she does change quite a bit. At the beginning of the book, she’s detached and sullen— realistic behavior after the death of a sibling, but it doesn’t make for an extremely engaging protagonist. Things are always happening to her, not because of her. Through the first several chapters, I didn’t feel like I knew very much about the main character other than her sister was murdered and she plays a lot of tennis. This pattern begins to lift when Grace weans herself off of the pain killers she’s become addicted to and returns to the scene of the crime with new ambition. Speaking of the book as a whole, crime fiction lovers have some intelligent, gritty writing to look forward to in Dark Rooms

About the author

Leah Dearborn is a Boston-based writer with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in international relations from UMass Boston. She started writing for LitReactor in 2013 while paying her way through journalism school and hopping between bookstore jobs (R.I.P. Borders). In the years since, she’s written articles about everything from colonial poisoning plots to city council plans for using owls as pest control. If it’s a little strange, she’s probably interested.

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