Elizabeth Haynes: Into the Darkest Corner (2011)


I just finished Elizabeth Haynes’ first novel Into the Darkest Corner and for once I can see why it was such a success. It’s gripping, interesting and exceptionally well crafted.

Usually I’m not keen on books which contain so many chapters and follow two different timelines but maybe that was just because I haven’t seen it done this well before. Elizabeth Haynes manages to cut the storyline without ending on a cliffhanger but still keeping the reader interested. It’s a page turner but not one that manipulates and forces you to rush through but one that allows you to read at a steady pace.

The novel starts with the transcript of a court room scene, switches to 2001 where a murder is committed and then moves to 2003 – 2005, adding a second timeline 2007/2008.

At the beginning of the novel, in 2003, 24 year-old Cathy lives in Lancaster and is a real party animal. She is out every night, drinks far too much, wakes up with strangers, and repeats the very same thing the next day. On one of these nights out she meets the dashingly handsome Lee. Soon she is in a relationship with him and at first it seems to be very good for her. She doesn’t go out as much anymore, drinks a bit less. Unfortunately Lee is very possessive, domineering and plays odd games. What is even more unfortunate is the fact that nobody believes Cathy. The Lee  the world sees is kind and loving. Nobody knows what a master manipulator he is.

In 2007 Cathy lives in London. She suffers from OCD and panic attacks. She spends almost all of her free time checking her door, her windows, drinking tea at specific times, made a specific way, avoids places and colours. It’s her anxiety and her panic attacks which trigger the OCD, the more she’s afraid, the more she needs checking. When Stuart, a psychologist, moves in, it’s obvious for him right away that Cathy suffers from PTSD. It will take all of his patience and understanding to get to know her and help her.

What happened to Cathy? How did she become like this? Will she be able to heal? These are some of the fascinating questions the book asks and answers. The description of panic attacks and OCD is amazingly realistic. I’ve never seen this described so well.

We know early on that Lee is in prison and that he will be set free soon. When this happens, the book turns from a psychological study into a fast paced thriller with a great ending.

As far as thrillers go Elizabeth Haynes has done everything right. Main story, back story and side stories form an organic whole. I was for example wondering for far over 100 pages why on earth Cathy was behaving in such a self-destructive way even before she meets Lee and was pleasantly surprised that this question is answered later in the book.

If you are looking for a gripping thriller, you might enjoy this. If you are interested in OCD and PTSD and how they can be treated, you might like this a great deal as well. I feel I need to mention that the book is quite violent in places.