Hello everyone, and welcome back to The Bookworm’s Fantasy! I hope you’re all doing well. Today I’m posting my review of Elizabeth Haynes’ fantastic thriller, ‘Into The Darkest Corner’. This book is definitely not for the faint-hearted, but it is a fantastic read! Keep reading to discover my thoughts…
Catherine has been enjoying single life for long enough to know a good catch when she sees one. Gorgeous, charismatic and spontaneous, Lee seems almost too perfect to be true. But there is a dark side to him and his erratic, controlling and sometimes frightening behaviour means that Catherine is increasingly isolated. Driven into the darkest corner of her world, she plans a meticulous escape. Four years later, struggling to overcome her demons, Catherine dares to believe she might be safe from harm. Until one phone call changes everything…
** TRIGGER WARNING ** Contains explicit scenes of domestic violence, detailing physical, emotional and sexual abuse, including scenes of rape. Contains references to mental illnesses, most notably OCD, anxiety and PTSD. Also contains references to substance abuse and alcoholism.
‘Into The Darkest Corner’ (2011) is Elizabeth Haynes’ debut novel. She has since written the standalone novels ‘Revenge Of The Tide’ (2012), ‘Human Remains’ (2013) and ‘Never Alone’ (2016). She has also written two books in the “Detective Inspector Louisa Smith” series: ‘Under A Silent Moon’ (2013) and ‘Behind Closed Doors’ (2015). Haynes grew up in Sussex and now lives in Kent, and she previously worked as a police intelligence analyst.
The novel won Amazon’s Book Of The Year in 2011 and Amazon’s Rising Star award, and it received rave reviews. Guardian said “Haynes’ powerful account of domestic violence is disquieting, yet unsensationalist”, NewsBooks Magazine remarked that “The pain and frustration of OCD is brilliantly evoked”, and Shotsmag labelled it “A tense and thought-provoking debut novel with dark moments”. Fellow authors also praised the book, such as Karin Slaughter: “Check the locks on your doors and windows and surrender to this obsessive thriller” and S.J. Watson: “This intense, gripping account of domestic violence and its aftermath is utterly unputdownable”.
‘Into The Darkest Corner’ is an intense investigation into the subject of domestic violence, and how that violence can still haunt the victim years later. It follows the life of Catherine, who narrowly missed a tragic fate when she became entangled with Lee. In the present, she is attempting to move forwards and get her life back on track – but will she ever truly be free from her past?
The narrative is told in the form of diary entries, with the dates of the entries marking out two consecutive narratives – the present (2007) and the past (2003). The novel contains no chapters, and simply flits back and forth between these two timelines. The narrative is written in Cathy’s first-person account, providing a detailed insight to her thoughts and feelings. The narrative is fairly simple and easy to follow, yet it is still extremely effective.
Cathy is my favourite character in the novel. It’s clear to see that she’s suffered greatly, and she really struggles to overcome her traumatic past experiences. In the present day, she suffers with OCD – constantly checking the doors and windows in her flat are locked, afraid that Lee will come after her again. She’s anxious and insecure, and understandably finds it extremely difficult to trust anybody. At times, she is nasty and unpleasant towards those closest to her, which is a very realistic portrayal of mental illness. I felt a great deal of sympathy towards Cathy, and felt that I could really relate to her. She deserves to be happy, and it broke my heart to read about all the hardships she has had to endure.
Lee is a vile, vicious character, and it’s fair to say that I absolutely hated him. He’s aggressive and violent, and believes he should have control over every inch of Cathy’s life. He’s dangerous and is not to be trusted – although he does gain the trust of Cathy’s friends by charming them, pretending that he is innocent and good. Even though he is a horrible character, there are moments where Haynes shows the reader that he does have some humanity in him, and he is capable of getting emotional and upset – although of course this doesn’t excuse what he does. However, it does make for an extremely complex, three dimensional character.
Cathy’s neighbour Stuart is a lovely, kind man who happens to stumble into her life just at the right time. He’s a psychiatrist and begins by helping Cathy with her OCD and panic attacks, but gradually their relationship blossoms. Stuart, too, has been hurt in the past, making him a vulnerable man who just wants somebody to care for him. His presence alone is enough to soothe the reader, reassuring them that he will do anything he can to protect Cathy and keep her from harm.
Other characters in the novel include Cathy’s various friends and colleagues, various members of the police team, Lee’s other victims, and Stuart’s friends. I have chosen to only discuss the three main characters in this review to decrease confusion – although Cathy’s friend Sylvia particularly comes into play in the later part of the novel. All of the characters bring something fresh and exciting to the novel.
** TRIGGER WARNING ** (I apologise for any spoilers here.) This novel particularly explores the theme of domestic violence, and does so in great detail. The novel includes scenes detailing explicit acts of physical, emotional and sexual abuse, including scenes of rape. These scenes are extremely difficult to read, and you need a strong stomach in order to read this book. The novel also explores the theme of mental illness, particularly portraying OCD, anxiety and PTSD. The portrayal of OCD is focused upon greatly, and is done so with much sensitivity. Finally, the novel also details substance abuse and alcoholism. All of these issues are approached with expert knowledge and appropriate sensitivity, but if any of these issues may trigger a negative response, I suggest you skip this book.
As the past narrative motors onwards, Lee’s behaviour becomes even more violent and erratic, until Cathy feels she has no choice but to attempt to escape him. As the present narrative motors onwards, Cathy continues to push Stuart away and attempts to focus on her recovery. She finally comes to the realisation that she needs Stuart – but by then, is it already too late?
So, let’s talk about the ending. There’s a dramatic end scene in which Cathy comes face to face with her worst fear, and she must be brave and fight her demons. The scene can only end in life or death, and I was on the edge of my seat during the entire scene, hoping and praying that Cathy would triumph. The ending is fantastic, and ties everything together brilliantly. I was really pleased with how the novel turned out, and was glad that there is still a hint of ambiguity at the end.
Overall, I highly recommend this novel to those of you who enjoy much darker thrillers, particularly if you’re interested in domestic violence as a theme. It’s an utterly compelling novel, full of high-tension and suspense throughout. The portrayal of mental illness in the novel was fantastic, and I really appreciated how much detail was prescribed to detailing Cathy’s OCD. I would say that it was a bit too dark and uncomfortable for me at times, and I really struggled to read some of the scenes. But I got to the end, and I’m so pleased I did!
Happy reading 🙂