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3.9 out of 5 stars
Human Remains
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
Like everyone else it seems, I discovered Elizabeth Haynes' writing through her magnificent debut, Into the Darkest Corner. Her second, Revenge of the Tide, was good too, but maybe lacking a little something for me. But as for this one - it really is absolutely fantastic, arguably her best yet, and I've honestly never read anything quite like it.

The whole book is incredibly original, and all the more engaging because of its grounding in mundane everyday life. As a central character, we have Annabel, a police analyst who lives alone with her cat Lucy, dissatisfied in life and work, running round after her ungrateful elderly mother. First, she discovers the death of a neighbour - alone and inexplicable. Then, through her work, she discovers that there has been a significant increase in the number of people dying alone at home within her small town. She struggles to get anyone interested - surely the increase has to be significant in some way - until local journalist Sam Everett picks up on the story.

The individual behind the deaths is a magnificent creation who makes your blood run cold: and there's a constant underlying humour and incongruity that makes him all the more chilling. The story is told through Annabel and the man behind it all, but interspersed with the voices of those who have died - and the whole structure works really well. Some of the stories are really touching, wonderful vignettes of the lives of the lonely. And she really gets under the skin and into the minds of her two main characters - in different ways, it's an uncomfortable and fascinating place to be.

This is a story that makes you sweat and your pulse race, 100% believable, magnificently dark, incredibly exciting, and I defy anyone to put it down for anything but the briefest of pauses before its fantastic ending. It will stay with me a long time, and I'll always dress properly, put my make-up on and smile when I do an evening supermarket shop from now on - and run a mile if anyone touches me on the arm.
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57 of 61 people found the following review helpful
This is the third novel from crime writer Elizabeth Haynes and for me this is her darkest yet. Annabel works as an analyst for the police. She is lonely, with just her cat Lucy for company at home, and a few visits a week to her housebound mum to separate her days. She works hard, and doesn't have any other close relationships, seeing the friendships amongst others at work go on around her without being part of them, feeling rather disconnected.

Having made a grim discovery in the house next door to hers one day, she realises on her return to work that similar deaths are happening in an alarmingly high number in the locality, and takes this information to her bosses at the police station. Why are so many people dying alone at home, not being discovered for some time after their deaths? Though seeming unsuspicious and raising little interest at first- these are deaths after all, not murders, aren't they? - not least a local journalist, Sam Everett.

Through other lonely, troubled voices that are heard briefly in the story, and primarily through Annabel, this novel examines loneliness and the vulnerability of it, whether society should do more for those living alone, making us question our duty to others, and it makes you wonder about both choosing to be alone and ending up that way. As the neighbour of someone who has been found dead and alone comments `I think it's terrible that in this day and age nobody notices you're gone...People should take more care of each other.' This is not to say that the novel offers no hope in this regard; in fact there are people who demonstrate the very opposite and offer kindness and friendship just when it is most needed.

Haynes has created a cold, chilling character for the criminal in this novel. She takes us into his mind; we know that from the outside he looks just like anyone else, he goes to work, goes about his life, no one would know what else he does in private: `If you met me in the street I dare say you would not be unduly worried by my presence...' But inside that twisted mind are the thoughts of man playing with the lives of others and relishing what he does, even believing he is helping them to escape, using his own particular methods: `You want to know how I do it, don't you? I can imagine it, your fervent interest, your curiosity that others might describe as morbid: I can see it in the sparkle in your eyes. Well, ask me, then. Go on. I know you're dying to...' The language here is so apt - `morbid, dying to' - in keeping with the subject matter of the book.

Elizabeth Haynes established herself as a must-read author for me with Into the Darkest Corner. This novel confirms her talent for getting to the heart of the darkest minds and imagining the awful horrors they might commit. She has crafted another compelling story, with characters that get under your skin, a mystery and investigation that keeps you turning the pages, and with a dark, creepy air pervading it all.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 5 March 2014
This was my first Elizabeth Haynes novel which I chanced upon and having thoroughly enjoyed it I will definitely be downloading her debut, Into the Darkest Corner. The originality of Human Remains is the real pleasure of the book and I couldn’t help but be moved by the themes of loneliness and vulnerability in the novel. It really is a sad affair reading how these characters withdraw from society and give up on life but it is still very viable and therefore very real to the reader. This emotion is perfectly enhanced by slithers of echoes from the deceased spoken from beyond their death to add another dimension to the story standing apart from the voices of Annabel and Colin. The so-called crime is incredibly dark and could have been quite gory but in actual fact it was so fascinating I found myself doing some further reading about some of the methods and processes the author gave to Colin. The offender, Colin is a credible character who, despite his motives and actions, is strangely not totally despicable. I found the character and circumstance of Annabel very effective and very real. The character is so well rounded without the writer having to go into huge amounts of biographical context, rather it is enough to gage her life from her day to day activities, or lack of and her musings at work, at home with her cat and of course at her mother’s house and later the hospital. I was glad that the ending stayed true to the character of Annabel and that the author did not run away with any romantic notions, quite refreshing really and what’s more I thought our final glimpse into the mind of Colin was just perfect!

I have no doubt that this story is truly memorable and I have a feeling it will stay with me for a long time so all in all an excellent read which I have been telling many people since I first started reading it. Get it!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 14 April 2014
I read 'Into The Darkest Corner' not long after it appeared on the WH SMITH'S bookshelves where I live and I couldn't put it down. It was a book I recommended to a good friend and we've started 'Human Remains' together.

This is a similar set up in that the female protagonist, Annabel, is very much a loner, she has an elderly infirm mother but no close friends or other relatives. Life is a day to day series of events without any enjoyable colour to lift her grey existence until the day she finds her neighbour, Shelley, dead in the house next door. The prospect of this becoming her own conclusion dawns very quickly on Annabel and it is through her work as a police analyst that she realises this is a far from isolated incident, indeed there appears to be a peak in the numbers of such cases of local people simply dying at home and not being discovered until they have been dead for a long time.

The thing that I really enjoy about Elizabeth Haynes' writing is that she very much creates a tangible atmosphere; you can feel the loneliness of Annabel and later Shelley, Noel, Rachelle etc. The book is set within Autumn so the season enhances the feeling of things shutting down and decaying, I had to look up and remember I was reading this book in my garden on a warm April afternoon.

I'm off to read 'Revenge of the tides' now, I've had it on my Kindle for a while, I wonder if my friend has finished 'Human Remains'?
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 28 June 2013
Having now read all three of Elizabeth's novels, I believe that the quality, structure and her literacy skills have just got better and better.
The common thread of her latest novel ` Human Remains `at times is a little too near the truth of today's modern society and the lack of actually knowing or caring who lives next door to you.
This book was well written and keeps you enthralled all the way from the very start to the end.
The quality of detail once again proves the amount of research that Elizabeth has yet again put into her work.

I think that the final chapter in all this will be a sad day for Kent Police but a ' cracking result ' for us who adore crime novels.

Congratulations Elizabeth looking forward to book number 4.

Thumper
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 10 January 2014
I thought I had bought a thriller but I wouldn't really describe it as such. I found it boring yet I suppose a bit intriguing at the same time, in that I wanted to finish the book not only to see what happened but also so that I could get it over with. It was very difficult to be interested in the main characters especially Annabell as I just couldn't get to grips with her personality and what she was about. I did read it to the end but found the plot to be a unnecessarily drawn out, far fetched and with little explanation of Colin's "techniques".I was glad and relieved when it came to a conclusion as I didn't care about any characters in the book. I would not recommend reading this book if you were expecting a thriller.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 23 October 2014
I feel a bit mean giving this three stars, just because i really do love Elizabeth Haynes - her novel 'Into the darkest corner' was fantastic, I've read it three times, and could easily read it again.

So, I was really excited to read Human Remains - my excitement stopped before i was half way through the book. The first thing that i found myself doing, was skim reading past the truck load of narrative - there's a hell of a lot of it. Also, after the second 'Dead persons' perspective, i skipped the ones after that. I just felt they were unnecessary to the story ... i didn't really need to know about every single victim's back story and why they were depressed, considering the dead people aren't an active part of the story.

On a plus note, i found Colin a very dark, intriguing character, more so because he does actually believe that he is doing nothing wrong, he think's he's helping people. He's a strange, quite grotesque character to say the least. Again - narrative and backstory in Colins point of view, there was just way too much of it, just filling in pages with information that i really didn't need to know, and that bored me, so again, i ended up skim reading, sometimes even skipping pages. I really didn't feel the amount of backstory helped the novel at all, it just slowed down the pace, and kept putting me in the past and distracting me from the story.

Moving on to Annabel. She was okay. I didn't really connect with her 100 percent, although i warmed more to her character after her mother passed. Apart from that, i didn't care too much for her, not enough to make me really involved in her story - which i didn't feel, i just kind of felt like a bystander, watching, rather than being sucked in and living it with her.
Anyway, wanted to know where it was headed so i kept reading, there was nothing really too dramatic happening, it let my emotions on one level throughout, but i thought, something at the end is going to shock me and make it all worth while.
I thought the concept of what Colin was doing was a great one - very unique and something i've not come across before, very original for a story - but then, when he met Anabelle,i was so confused, almost disappointed, and quite irritated. I know he's meant to be all well clued up in all his subjects, but surely, in the real world, even if i was so depressed i wanted to jump of a bridge, if some random man came up to me and paced his hand on my shoulder, saying brief words, like 'you look lost,' etc, i'd walk the other way. Even if i did think 'he seems okay' why on earth, after exchanging a couple of strange words, would you agree to meet him again the following day. It all just went to fast for me, i was expecting more, like he'd have to do more - lots of mind work with his victims, not just a simple hand on the shoulder and telling them to go home and lock the door. I thought that was a bit ridiculous, to be honest.

It just kept going down hill from there for me, I continued skim reading, wishing the thing would hurry up and end, it was turning out to be more of a chore - i still wanted to get to the end, and when i did, BANG. Nothing, what a let down, huge disappointed. I felt it was rushed,..so much more could have been done suspense wise. After all that leading up to it, and the amount of narrative, to have nothing, just a bland disappointing and not at all satisfying ending. I really was disappointed. The book was so long, it really didn't need so much to tell this story, it could have been a lot shorter, snappier, suspenseful. I don't know, i liked the idea of the story, and i get where the author was going with it, but i just felt let down. It wasn't what i was expecting.

I'm sorry i can only give it two stars, as i've said before, i loved the authors novel. One of my faves. Hopefully, i'll have better luck with another one of her novels. Sorry Elizabeth, this one just wasn't for me.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 17 August 2014
Annabel lives with her cat, Lucy; a strange, unpleasant, smell, which she thinks is a gift from Lucy in the form of a dead mouse or bird, leads her to investigate the empty house next door. She finds a decomposed body propped up in an armchair. Working as an analyst in the local police Intelligence Unit she begins to notice than an unusually high number of similar deaths have been recorded; that is, people dying alone, in their own homes, not missed by anyone – is there a pattern, a common link? Annabel wants to find out but the powers-that-be show little interest.

Colin also lives alone; a very unsavoury character with a fascination with decaying flesh and a vivid imagination. He spends much of his free time taking courses in biology, and is something of an expert in this field, watching porn, fantasising about women, and devising ways to meet the perfect mate. Socially awkward and deficient in so many ways, Colin is what would probably be described as a sociopath.

These are the two main characters of this dark, unsettling novel. Given the title of the book, I expected the storyline to be exactly that, I had, however, expected the pace to be faster, as it was I found it to be quite heavy-going and much more unpleasant, and as such quite difficult to get into. I had hoped I would begin to sympathise, or empathise, with the characters but that didn’t happen at all. In fact, all I really wanted to do was get to the end of this, turn the last page and not think about it. It was a bit like prodding road kill (not that I do that!) – I’d put the darn thing down, read something else, and then go back to it.

I had enjoyed Elizabeth Haynes first book “Into the Darkest Corner” very much, and whilst the subject matter – domestic violence – is unpleasant, the main character was one the reader could really sympathise with, if not relate to, and cheer on, if you like.

I can’t honestly say I enjoyed this novel; it’s well written, the idea behind plot is good, the characters are what they’re supposed to be, and yet….I can only put it down to lack of pace and perhaps my frame of mind at the moment. I may well read this again in a couple of year’s time. That being said, it does not put me off reading her other book “Revenge of The Tide”, in the hope that I enjoy it more than this one, and I will look for anything else she may write in the future
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on 26 April 2013
I'm another reader who was terribly disappointed by this book. I read and loved both her first 2 books Into the Darkest Corner and Revenge of the Tide so I could hardly wait to get my hands on her latest offering, especially as several friends whose tastes are similar to mine - loved it.

It was pretty awful, I was so exasperated with the main character Annabel - I just couldn't warm to her and the disgusting and disturbed Colin just made me feel nauseous, but there was none of that tension building, page turning urgency of her other books just a dreary, repetitive inevitability which had hardly any hidden depths or twists.

I can't recommend this but would highly recommend the authors' other 2 books if you haven't read them yet.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 12 March 2013
This is a very unusual crime novel from the author. All three of her books have been unusual in that they are not just dealing with a 'standard' murder case. In Human Remains there is a very unusual killer using methods that are not like anything you have read before. The book gets right into the mind of the killer and of Annabel the herione of the story. If I write more I run the risjk of ruining the story for you.

It is not as 'dark' as her first novel in the sense that in that novel the story was about dominance of one person by another. This one is about helping people to die who are depressed. Brilliant.
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