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I had wanted to read this book after reading fantastic reviews about it online. I couldn't believe my luck when I stumbled across it in my local library. It didn't disappoint and I found myself making lots of time to read it! The author of the book is Elizabeth Haynes, and I think she has written just a handful of books to date. After finishing The Darkest Corner I will definitely be looking out for more of her work.
The story starts quite mysteriously with a girl called Naomi being left to die whilst an unnamed male character watches her and then viciously destroys her remains so that they are unidentifiable. The way in which the scene is described is really quite graphic and so the author manages to grasp the attention of the reader very quickly. We then suddenly move forward about a year, in to the life of Catherine who is the main character. She is a bold and vivacious young woman. She likes to go out dancing, flirting, being with her friends. She manages to catch the eyes of men wherever she goes, and the first night we see her catching the eye of Lee, an attractive doorman at a club. They flirt outrageously and one thing leads to another. A very hot and passionate relationship ensues but as time goes on Catherine realises that Lee isn't quite what he seems.
The story suddenly fast forwards again and it's 5 years later. We are still with Catherine, but she's very different now. The rest of the book describes how and why Catherine slowly changed and how much her involvement Lee changed her. It's gritty at times, but is written in a very sharp and precise way that is incredibly addictive. I found myself constantly wanting to know what happened next.
Rather than having conventional chapters, the book moved back and forth between the past and present day using dates as headers, so we knew exactly what time period we were in each time a new section started. In addition, each section, or time shot wasn't usually longer than 3 or 4 pages long so things were always interesting and meant the book was fast-paced. In fact, every time it was time for the next section I found myself wanting to stay in that time period because things were so interesting. But by the time I got to the end of that scene, I then wanted to stay there! This tells you how good the author was at building mystery and suspense in this story. I don't think I have read many other books that have built things up in such a fantastic way.
The story tackles some very tough issues such as domestic abuse and mental health disorders. It was difficult to read at times but that didn't ruin my enjoyment of the book. Although I like to read excellent books more than once, I probably wouldn't read this one again because the subject matter is quite dark but I really enjoyed it and don't regret reading it at all. This book is about real things that do happen to real people and it serves to raise the awareness of these important issues. I would happily recommend this book although I would say that it might not be suitable for some younger readers.
Thanks for reading!
==Synopsis of the book:==
Catherine Bailey after being happily single for a long time finally meets what she believes is her Mr Right. She finds herself drawn to this handsome, intelligent man. Lee is something of a mysterious man, unwilling to tell Catherine too much of the work he does, although she quickly realises it can involve violence. As one night he turns up at her flat covered in blood.
She accepts this because he can be very loving and all her friends think she has found one in a million and are jealous of her new found happiness with Lee. And Lee for his part seems in love with her and loves to see her in her sexy red dress. The only concern Catherine has is he sometimes disappears for days at a time on a job and can appear at of no where. As a result she never knows if he will be available to go out on social occasions with her. However as their relationship becomes stronger and more permanent she starts to feel isolated from her once close friends and worries about his increasing controlling behaviour of her.
==My thoughts on this novel:==
I thought this was a very good suspense mystery and one I found very easy to enjoy. I purchased this book on the advice of a friend who couldn't say enough goods things about it. However, this kind of recommendation always makes me worry and I often feel that in these situations I am never going to enjoy the book and instead look for reasons why it is not as good as I have been told. But on this occasion I can only praise my friends good taste and thank them for introducing me to this talented author.
Like most people I tend to take a while to get used to and appreciate a new authors style of writing. However in this case I found I had no trouble at all and I enjoyed the book from the very first page till the last. What really impresses me about Elizabeth Haynes is this is her debut novel. My view has always been it takes a writer a while to produce there best work. It takes a while to find a style that the public likes and to produce a well thought out story. However she has done it very successfully here and created an excellent suspense story.
If I have to say what I think the authors style of writing is similar to I would say Lisa Gardner. Although in terms of gripping suspense this author wins my vote. Indeed this book was the winner of the Amazon rising stars in 2011 and long listed for the Creasey Dagger award. Since then this Police Intelligence Analyst by profession has written a follow up and has plans for two more titles in 2013.
When I purchased this book, I immediately liked its title and for me it does say a lot about the book itself.
Added to this there were three ringing endorsements for it which made me want to find out what it was all about and why these critics liked it so much. I flicked it over to see what the summary was like. In truth this was not as good as I had expected and it told far more than I have given away in my short summary above. I think the reason I did not like it that much was I was concerned I would be reading a story about a couples struggle told from the woman's perspective that would be a bit of a chic lit.
The book starts in a very unusual way. It begins with the trial of Lee Brightman. It only deals with his evidence and gives little away about their relationship. Indeed from reading it you would consider she was a violent lady and one Lee needed to defend himself from. For me it was an interesting way to start the story especially as you did not find out till much later what the result of that court action where. It did make me intrigued and want to know exactly what had happened and why.
The story then flicked from 2003 to 2007. It was always well signposted so I never got confused and it was almost like reading two stories in one as different things were clearly happening to the various characters in the different years. The only constant was Catherine. This style worked for me as it would be a maximum of a few pages on any date in one year and then something similar in the other year. I found at times I preferred learning about 2003 while at others 2007.
I found the story very easy to read and full of not only depth but real understanding and compassion for Catherine. I have never know much about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) but the way it was explained and demonstrated I felt I understand and could relate to why it was being done. I felt the author really understood what it was like to be suffering from this and I as a result I felt a lot of sympathy for the character and what she had to do to keep herself functioning.
What really impressed me was I had expected to feel not too much sympathy for Catherine but I found I could relate and understand why. I think the reason for that was the depth of the story and the way it kind of flicked between the before and after picture. I found myself being taken along with the story and hoping everything would work out for her and she would be able to live a normal life. As there was so much suspense within the story it was like a mist throughout that at any moment could get worse but never clear.
The longer the story went on the better it got and the more chilling and gripping it was. The pace was always good and while there were a few minor details that I wanted to either know more about or I wondered if someone would actually do that, I did always believe in what I was reading. I think that was because it all seemed reasonable and the characters did not act out of context. Even though at times it was annoying they did not!!
I had no idea how the author would conclude what was a fascinating story. I am not one of happy endings but on this occasion I did want it for Catherine. For me the ending was a little rushed and I would have definitely have liked an epilogue updating the reader on the progress of the characters some time later. I thought the author could have expanded the ending and in doing so added a more chilling climax that would have been in keeping to what had happened previously in the story.
The conclusion apart it was a very enjoyable read. At the end of the story there was a very useful question and answer session with the author about the book. I found this very interesting and it gave me a great insight into how she wrote it and what the authors chain of thoughts were about the story and some of the characters within it. It was followed by some more general question again put to the author which I found very illuminating and helpful in understanding the author and how she goes about writing her novel.
Catherine was the stories lead character and one I really liked and felt I could understand. I thought the author really understood and got to walk about in her head. And while initially I didn't take to her as a character she really grew on me the more I understood about her and the more she went through. In the end I really respected her and admired her courage as I couldn't see myself be as strong as she was given what happened to her previously.
Having read and thoroughly enjoyed this thriller. I now need to seek out other books written by this author to see how they compare as she has an awful lot to live up to now!! I think the richness of this story is the depth and the understanding the author had for Catherine and OCD. It was the type of suspense story where you had no idea what would happen next and it had a few good and unexpected twists in it that left me satisfied and impressed.
This is a first class piece of fiction and one I would recommend without any hesitation. I think I owe my friend who recommended it a drink. It was a very well told story that was fascinating and even compelling. I really enjoyed reading it as it was well thought out and gripping throughout. My only very minor complaint was I thought the ending could have been expanded and in so creating a chilling ending.
Price: £5.59 New at Amazon
Publisher: Myriad Editions
Year first published: 2011
More about the author: www.elizabeth-haynes.com
Thanks for reading my review.
This review is published under my user name on both Ciao and Dooyoo
©CPTDANIELS April 2013
This book was originally written as part of a challenge to write a novel in a month. Elizabeth Haynes managed this and then some! I can't believe this is her debut novel, it's so well written and researched you'd be convinced she's been writing for years.
There are two separate timelines, the book flips between them in each chapter and each is as fascinating as the other. You find yourself wanting to find out what happens next in each timeline so, as you get to the end of a chapter, you just HAVE to read on.
In one timeline, main character's crippling OCD is fascinating and, in the other, is the most terrifying man any woman would ever meet. I've never found myself more scared of a fictional character from a book before. Seeing an abusive relationship from the victim's point of view definitely makes you think differently. Instead of "Why doesn't she just leave?" you start to think and feel the way she does and truly understand how hard it is.
Elizabeth has since published two more novels and I've loved all of them. I wait with baited breath for her fourth which she has just finished writing.
I started this book just before I came on holiday and axiously awaited the take off to be over so I could switch my kindle back on and continue.
This novel is writen in a diary style over two time periods. We meet Catherine, a free spirit who enjoys single life and time with her girl friends. She meets a man named Lee whom she becomes involved with and all her friends approve and think she has found the perfect man - good looking, generous, hard working and loving.
We meet Catherine again but she is not the free sprit she was years before. Now she is controlled by her OCD and anxiety rules her life. She is a shadow of her former self. When a new man moves into one of the flats in her block her life begins to improve until she gets the phone call which she has been dreading.
Lee was not Catherines perfect man, he was controlling, he was violent, but he was charasmatic. As the novel progresses we learn what happened to Catherine to lead her to this isolated and anxiety ridden woman whom had once been so self assured.
The novel is a fantastic and well written. It explores the issues of OCD with great understanding and sympathy. It recognises the issues of abuse and how people are entrapped by their partner.
This is a fantastic novel. The only reason I am not giving it five stars is because it isn't up there in my *must read no matter what* but it is a novel I would highly recommend people to read who enjoy a good psychological thriller.
In 2003 Catherine Bailey was a confident, happy-go-lucky kind of girl just looking to live life to the full with no strings attached. In 2007 we find an emotionally traumatised Cathy with crippling OCD just trying to get through each day as it comes in an attempt to slowly rebuild her life. What transformed this once vibrant girl into a frightened shadow of her former self? The answer - a man named Lee Brightman - a violent and psychological abuser. Cathy knows he will be released from prison soon and is convinced he will come after her. Can she overcome her paranoia to continue her recovery, or will Lee's presence, real or not, destroy her?
Into the Darkest Corner, written by Elizabeth Haynes originally in 2008 for the National Novel Writing Month (www.nanowrimo.org) but not actually published until 2011, gives a fascinating and dark insight into a world of domestic abuse from a physical, emotional and psychological viewpoint and shows just how easy it could be to fall prey to a dangerous sociopath and just how far reaching the consequences can be. The book gets off to a bit of a bang as we are thrown right into the middle of the story with an excerpt from a court case involving one Mr Brightman as he reveals how he "never meant to hurt his troubled and highly unstable girlfriend" followed by an unconnected and brutal murder scene of a young woman Naomi by a mysterious assailant which immediately sets the benchmark for the level of danger you can expect from this story.
I particularly enjoyed the style of writing which was to almost tell the story through diary like entries (though spoken as opposed to written) from Cathy's first person narration with two parallel timelines, one beginning in 2003 and the other beginning in 2007. The story jumps back and forth effortlessly without any confusion and is a clever device to highlight the startling changes that have befallen our heroine Cathy as a result of her abuse. The depiction of Cathy's crippling OCD in the present day with such things as only going shopping on even numbered days, drinking tea at particular times of the day, checking doors and windows are locked in a very specific way for a specific number of times and where any kind of failure could well result in severe panic and anxiety felt both realistic and harrowing by the way we were forced to live through it with Cathy. For me, this book was a real eye opener into the potential psychology surrounding OCD and I thought the level of suffering it can cause when it's at its worst was beautifully portrayed in this book through the impression of first-hand experience. Empathy with Cathy's character is inevitable and as a result you care instantly for her so the pain she suffers and threats to her have a genuine effect on you.
It's just so easy for somebody that has never experienced any kind of abuse from a supposed loved one to say "well why doesn't she just leave him, it really cannot be that hard!" but this novel shows the ever increasing psychological manipulation and obsessive infiltration into the life of a victim and how self doubt can overwhelm common sense leaving them utterly vulnerable to the abuser in a genuinely terrifying and unnerving way. This book also shows how an abuser can affect the closest people to their victims by also manipulating them into doubting their friend or relative, which is even more devastating for the victim as a sense of isolation adds to their psychological torture and pushes them further into the clutches of their abuser. The abuse depicted in this book does become quite disturbing at times with some shocking levels of cruelty, exacerbated even more so by the complete defeatism shown by Cathy at her darkest times which is very upsetting and certainly evokes a great feeling of anger and abhorrence to the events unfolding.
The switching between timeframes also allows the author to cut the story off just as you are learning about significant events from Cathy's past or as things are progressing in the present which means pretty much every entry ends on a bit of a cliff-hanger and thus we have the perfect recipe for a bona fide page turner. The tension throughout the book is a slow burner but is just captivating enough that you find yourself compelled to keep reading to try to get some much needed answers from the constant anvil shaped hints being dropped. With this book I found myself reading it on the train into work, on my lunch break, on the train back and then finally at home until I was done in under 2 days which is very speedy for me and I think shows just how completely gripping this story was.
I felt the characterisation was also intriguing as we could only build a picture of each character from Cathy's perspective so there was a big element of potential bias in everything we knew about them, although there was a brutal honesty and candidness to Cathy's story that never gave any real reason for doubt. Lee, probably the most important character to get right, was incredibly scary with his disarmingly sexy good looks and charming charisma acting as a mask for a dangerous and cruel master manipulator lurking beneath. The way Cathy knew she was being manipulated and still couldn't escape was particularly chilling and again hits home the psychological damage these type of abusive relationships can cause. The relationship dynamic between Cathy and all her friends was also fascinating to observe in the way that they failed to spot her abuse and began to pull away when she needed them the most as a direct result of Lee's interference which adds another frightening element to the systematic destruction he intended.
But it was not all doom and gloom as even though the 2003 timeline showed Catherine's slide into her own personal hell, the 2007 timeline showed how it is possible to come back from such a truly horrendous trauma and ultimately not let an abuser win. Despite her intense struggle, Cathy shows a willingness and quiet inner strength to try to overcome her fears by breaking through her self imposed boundaries in an attempt to beat her OCD and even find love again and you can't help but root for her all the way, yet it is intriguing to see the way Lee's release from prison affects her and her quest for a normal life. Little niggles start to work their way in moving steadily towards full blown paranoia, and since the novel is written almost entirely from Cathy's perspective it is actually a little difficult to know if what is happening is real or in her imagination which adds very effectively to the suspense and tension of the book.
Into the Darkest Corner is ultimately an exploration into the terrifying world of domestic abuse and the psychological battle the victim faces during and after surviving such a horrific experience. This book certainly isn't for the faint hearted as the depictions of the mental and physical abuse did reach some quite intense levels and could be harrowing at times, but it contained an excellent mix of suspense, tension and drama alongside a compelling personal journey to recovery and was a quietly exciting and gripping read that left you on edge right until the end. A highly emotional book that can jump from heart breaking to inspirational in the blink of an eye, Into the Darkest Corner is an absolute must read for fans of thrillers and perhaps even psychology.
I am not usually one for reading fiction books; however on my summer holiday this year - armed with my new Kindle - I decided to give a couple a try, including this debut from Elizabeth Haynes. It's a slow-building psychological thriller, that creates tension in such a way that you feel uneasy the whole way through. I think I read it in a day as I couldn't put it down.
In brief, the story explores the life of Catherine and how her relationship with one man, Lee Brightman, tore her life apart. A particularly interesting aspect of the book is it's structure, where every other chapter jumps back to the past; it tells two stories simultaneously, one telling of her life before and during her relationship with Lee and the other revealing the consequences of this relationship in the present. Running two time-lines at the same time can be a difficult thng to get right, but it works perfectly in this book; it creates even more tension, as you are not armed with all the details about her past as you try and understand what is going on in her present.
The book handles two very difficult subject matters- domestic abuse and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder - well and without too much melodrama. The sections told in the past depict the slow, steady build up from 'normal' relationship to one filled with violence and fear, and shows how someone can end up being trapped in such a horrendous situation.Personally, I also found the descriptions of Catherine's OCD-behaviours in present especially interesting to read; the contrast between her personality and behaviour pre-Lee (the slightly stereotypical, easy-going party girl) and the solitary, anxious woman we see in the present, who gets trapped for hours checking and re-checking everything around her appartment, allows the reader to understand the gravity of what must have happened to her, before we have actually found anything out.
I don't want to give much else away about the specifics of the plot, as the skill of this book is the slow unveiling of all the little details. However, I would highly recommend this book to anyone who likes tense, slow-building psychological thrillers that make you think and stay with you for a little while afterwards. There are some violent scenes in this book (and some of a quite explicit sexual nature - just a warning!) but there never feels to be any gratuitous violence; the tension comes from the psychological torment, rather than the physical. The slow-burning nature of the book means that it possibly isn't for people who like a non-stop action kind of thriller.