on 7 March 2011
As a rule I don't read crime or thrillers. It's not that I haven't enjoyed some (I have) it's simply that there's so much out there and only so much time. And I tend to be drawn to other genres.
However, I heard about this début on Twitter and I had to give it a go. I am SO glad that I did. It's fantastic. Many readers have said what a page turner it is, and I would whole-heartedly agree, but what makes this special is that we know from the outset that Lee is a bad 'un, that no good will come of Catherine's relationship with him, yet Haynes still manages to build almost unbearable tension as Catherine slips from good-time, confident girl to security obsessed, gibbering wreck and back again thanks to the love and concern of neighbour Stuart. Or does she?
The ambiguity of the ending was another thing I loved about this book. Just like the characters it felt real and all too believable. I've heard it said that many crime novels tie things up nicely at the end. That the bad get their just desserts and the good live happily ever after. And it is this deviation from the real world that lends them much of their appeal. With its first person, chatty narration, Into the Darkest Corner flows well and is easy to read. But it is not a comfortable read,and nor should it be. Prepare to be gripped, appalled and stunned. This is a fabulous début. Elizabeth Haynes has a crime convert in this reader. I look forward to her next.
on 27 April 2012
The book opens with in May 2005, with a transcript of a scene set in Lancaster Crown Court. Lee Brightman is giving evidence against Catherine who he says had some emotional problems and was violent towards him. He confesses he did hit her, once in `self defence'. At once we have a sense of how their relationship ended. The author then cleverly weaves Catherine's story between two timeframes: her time with Brightman in 2003/4 and later in 2007/8.
Catherine, pre Lee, is vivacious and outgoing and anything but a victim and her descent into a life abuse and isolation is shocking and so believable. She is reduced to a lonely, terrified woman with OCD and PTS, constantly in thrall to her checking the security of her home and restricting her life. As a reader you engage with Catherine right from the beginning as she talks about her compulsive need to check the locks on the door to her flat over and over again whilst acknowledging how ridiculous it is.
Gritty, tense, compulsive reading, you actually can feel your anxiety grow as you read certain passages and you have no idea how this will end. The pacing is superb with the author slowly building a feeling of unease, tension and suspense until you are almost as wound up as Catherine.
This is an edgy and powerful first novel, utterly convincing in its portrayal of obsession, and a tour de force of suspense.
One of my books of the year
on 13 February 2011
Having felt a bit confused by the first three apparently unconnected changes in time, (over the first three or four pages) I suddenly realised how the time-shifts functioned and from then on I was utterly gripped by this wonderful thriller. I basically devoured it in two days, and then went back to read it a second time straight away, able now to take it more slowly and enjoy the crafting of the narrative, which is beautifully put together, and very clever.
I don't want to risk any spoilers, so won't talk about plot at all. You just need to read it. But be warned - at times this is a seriously scary book - if you read it late at night, do check the locks on the doors and windows before you settle down.
on 20 March 2011
If you have ever wondered how an independent, fun loving woman ends up in a violent relationship read this book.
Catherine's voice is engaging from the start as she talks about her need to repeatedly check the locks on the entrance doors to her flat whilst also acknowledging the ridiculousness of her situation.
'I checked the flat several times, each time getting it slightly wrong. the more times I did it, the more tired I was getting. Sometimes I get stuck like this. Eventually I physically can't check any more.
'And a small, small voice of reason at the back of my head, trying to be heard above the cacophony of self-reproach, was screaming this is not normal. '
These detailed descriptions of Catherine's routines build up the tension as she slowly reveals why she is so obsessed with checking the locks. The author uses two different time frames to highlight how much Catherine has changed. The Catherine in 2003 is a very different woman to the frightened one in 2007.
The 2003 chapters detail how Catherine first met her abuser. Their relationship quickly becomes intense over a period of days as he constantly tests Catherine's boundaries, to see how much she will accept. It's easy to understand as an observer how Catherine, blinded by lust (love?), misses the warning signs.
As the mind games continue Catherine finds herself in the position of being manipulatative. This is not uncommon when a woman starts to develop low self-esteem in an unhealthy relationship. There's a scene when she puts on a red dress to get his attention, and it succeeds, but she is left feeling used and thinks 'this is crazy. What am I doing?'
This psychological thriller is fast paced and chilling, with a realistic twist. The impact of OCD and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder on victims of abuse is sensitively handled and believable. Lock all your doors and settle down for one of the most gripping reads of the year!
Told from the point of the view of a female victim, this first novel is utterly gripping, extremely well told and considerably more detailed and textured than the typical crime thriller.
The story seems to peer behind a typical local news story, the type of two-minute item which says that 'a man was sentenced to three years for assaulting his girlfriend' without going into any depth. In 'Into the Darkest Corner' Elizabeth Haynes has examined how a young woman could enter into a destructive, controlling relationship, and what might happen to her in the years after it ends. So far as the public is concerned, a trial and conviction might be the end of the matter, but for the protagonist of this book it's just part of her personal, horrible journey.
The narrative is split into two timelines which is a confusing device at first, but you soon become used to the action jumping between 'then' and 'now'. The plot and characters would have worked fine without using this slightly artifical style of writing, but the juxtaposition of the heroine's original character and behaviour alongside her current incarnation is artfully intelligent and underlines the catastrophic effect of the ordeal she has undergone.
The author's depiction of obessive-compulsive disorder is also masterful. For those lucky folk who have no neurosis or hang-ups, the description of the girl feeling forced to check, and re-check and check again that her door is secured should give some insight into what it's like to lose control over your own destiny, actions and intellect.
And if all that sounds very up itself and worthy, don't be put off in any way. 'Into the Darkest Corner' works on many levels -- it's a rip-roaring page-turner even if the psychological stuff doesn't ring your bells. An amazingly accomplished first novel. Definitely an author to watch.
on 30 November 2011
This book started so well. You could feel the tension in the main character's life following a traumatic relationship. And flipping alternate chapters to cover the relationship and the aftermath was just up my street. I couldn't put it down. Now for the but ... I dragged on for far too long. On reaching the three-quarter point, I was desperate to get to the end. The constant checking became monotonous - yes I know it was to convey the inner turmoil Catherine was suffering but less is [often] more. I became bored! And I have to agree with another reviewer - it pushed the boundaries of believability that someone showing all the signs of a psychiatrically challenged woman would attract anyone - let alone a Psychologist! He'd run a mile rather than bring his work home!!!
on 23 October 2011
This is one of the best psychological thrillers I have read in a long time, and for a debut novel I am so impressed I can't wait for Elizabeth Haynes to publish her second.
Into The Darkest Corner is a superbly written and well-delivered story of Cathy, a young woman living her life in total fear of anything that moves. The story grips straight away, although it was slightly confusing at first until I understood the timelines, but that didn't take more than a few pages and then I realised how cleverly it was done.
The chapters alternate between two time periods; from 2003, the time when Cathy was a carefree, fun-loving, nightclub-going young girl; to 2007, the present time, where we find Cathy has transformed into a woman who appears to be much older than her years, who is extremely disturbed and neurotic, with OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder).
It's written in the first person, from Cathy's point of view, and the reader is taken through Cathy's excitement at meeting the man of her dreams, through to Cathy's living hell as her dreams and her man turn into her worst ever nightmares.
The OCD behaviour Cathy develops as a result of the trauma is so realistic and scary that I could feel her panic in my bones as I read. Here is one section describing Cathy's typical behaviour as she returns home after work and closes the front door of her flat:
"I ran my fingers around the door frame, turned the door handle six times one way, six times the other way. One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six. The bolts held the door shut. I turned the Yale lock six times. I slid each bolt six times and back again, each time turning the doorknob six times. When I'd done all that, I could start checking the rest of the flat."
It usually took Cathy several hours to complete the checks before she could begin to feel even a tiny bit safe at home, but sometimes she ended up being so physically exhausted she couldn't do anything else afterwards. A romantic interest is provided by caring neighbour, Stuart, who helps to build Cathy's confidence to start tackling her illness. But all along, the narrative is filled with menace and foreboding and you can just sense the danger lurking in the pages ahead, as Cathy's nightmares are about to return.
Into The Darkest Corner is now on the list of books I couldn't put down, as I became oblivious to the world around me while deeply immersed in Cathy's story.
on 14 February 2011
I won't repeat the other reviewers that it takes (all of) a few pages to get into this book, as needless to say like the other reviewers once I was hooked that was it: laundry, dishes and child forgotten as I gave in to what is an imaginative, original and, well, thrilling thriller.
What I found so interesting about the book is that it blurs the boundaries between crime and literary fiction: not only is this a great story with all the necessary twists and turns of a great crime novel, but its journey into the mind of one woman's battle with OCD must surely also lend it that lofty label 'literary fiction.'
Which is not to say this is a heavy read. On the contrary. It is absorbing, pacy and, at times, chilling. A must read for lovers of any literary genre.
This is the first novel by Elizabeth Haynes, and it's one that I can imagine some people will like a lot, others will struggle to finish, and yet others will just think 'meh'. The promotional blurb declares "This is an edgy and powerful first novel, utterly convincing in its portrayal of obsession, and a tour de force of suspense", but this is only partly true - especially with regard to the suspense element because for me there was very little of it. In fact, it was all rather predictable.
It was interesting though, at least at first, because it quite intimately tackles the trauma one particular woman faces in the aftermath of a period of violent domestic abuse and controlling behaviour that culminates in an arrest, narrated in the first-person in a slightly unusual way by flicking backwards and forwards in time to portray events leading up to and the weeks and months after the end of a relationship that starts in high passion but ends in utter misery.
The examinations of obsessive compulsive disorder are interesting but after a while - and the behaviour spans the entire length of the novel - it does become rather tedious. It eventually becomes clear that the OCD and the woman's fear of being stalked and invaded are pretty much what most of this story is about. There's not enough variety, no sub-strands or multi-layering, and the number of prominent characters is very low. There are frequent episodes of modestly explicit sex but these are necessarily graphic because of their relevance to the central theme of abuse. The problem is, while it is often fascinating, it does occasionally feel like a fictionalised account of real-life events as opposed to a work of beautiful prose, and the reading experience is akin to a peep-show at times and curiously underwhelming despite the relentless examinations of the suffering woman's anxiety attacks and general despair.
For lack of suspense and thrills, and plain-vanilla prose, I'd have to mark it as weak, but the detailed (if over-done) fascinating and authentic examinations into the psychological pain of domestic abuse save it from getting a thumbs-down. A curious mixture of the good and the mundane, and desperately in need of a dramatic twist at the end - which never came, needless to add. For the record, I much preferred Alice Sebold's Lucky, despite being non-fiction, as it explored similar issues but was much more entertaining to read.
This novel is quite good but it's really nothing to get excited about, if you enjoy suspense and tension I can think of a whole shelf-full of alternatives that actually do deliver the goods in those areas.
on 10 July 2013
I Read this book from cover to cover, but regret doing so. I could have read much more interesting books. I am really surprised by all the positive reviews. The book is extremely repetitive and there might well be 60 pages of simply " I checked the door once, then again ....." .this book would have worked a lot better as a novel or short story. The story Line is good but there is almost no action and you end up being fed up by the main caracther. Read something else or skip all the " I checked the door...." Pages.