Author – Elizabeth Haynes
Published – 2011
Genre – Psychological thriller
When I said on Twitter that I hadn’t enjoyed Before I Go To Sleep as much as it seemed others had, the resounding response was that I needed to read Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes. This is a debut novel named Amazon’s Best Book of the Year 2011 and longlisted for the CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger in 2011.
A brief prologue, a transcript from a trial, introduces us to Lee Brightman. It’s apparent that he has been accused of a crime concerning his girlfriend Catherine, but it’s not clear exactly what the circumstances are.
Following a pretty disturbing short first chapter, we’re introduced to Catherine’s story. Then short chapters, similar to diary entries, alternate between her story in 2003 and 2007.
Weaving between the two timelines we begin to see how confident, gregarious Catherine has become a fearful shadow of her former self, controlled by OCD. In fact you soon realise that both threads of the story begin at points in Catherine’s life where she’s on the verge of a huge (and unforseen) change.
You can’t help but feel the sense of impending doom when reading about Catherine in the past – you know that something terrible is going to happen, but for Catherine in the present you have no idea how things will turn out. There’s an interesting point in the story where Catherine (in 2003) says that something has happened which “was going to change everything”, but as the reader you realise that this real moment is something seemingly inconsequential to Catherine a few days later.
It’s impossible (for me, anyway) to describe this book without using clichés. And they are “gripping”, “page-turner”, “edge of the seat”, “nail-biting” thriller. Haynes really knows how to build the tension. The skilful writing meant that I couldn’t even decide whether to trust the apparent knight in shining armour that seemed to be on the verge of rescuing Catherine – was he too good to be true? By the end I wanted to check my own doors and windows, just to be on the safe side!
In fact in a small way this tension perhaps undermined the OCD aspect of the story – after all if you were in fear for your life wouldn’t you want to keep checking that the door was locked? But the issue is perhaps how real, or imagined, that threat is!
I liked Catherine as the leading character. I think too many of the female leads in my recent reading have been middle-aged, downtrodden women and while they may be closer in age to me than Catherine, I much prefer to read books with younger, feisty heroines. Some may find it a bit too sexually explicit – but I think this just helps to illustrate Catherine’s character, and perhaps how much she was being manipulated.
This is a great debut novel and my first 5 star read so far this year, if you enjoy Nicci French or Minette Walters then you really must give this a try.
Score – 5/5