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.

33 thoughts on “Elizabeth Haynes: Into the Darkest Corner (2011)

    • It is and it is very similar to Nicci French. Give this is her first novel, I think we can expect a lot fom her in the future. Litlove just read and reviewed the second and liked it a great deal too.

  1. The plot sounds intriguing. It seems as if the multiple timeline thing is used to really good effect.

    It is very that when one looks at a relationship from the outside that people will often see a very different person as opposed to someone looking from the inside.

    • She did a great job. I’m not so keen on the split timelines but this was excellent.
      There is a secret why everyone believes Lee but that would be major spoilr. in any case, she even did that well, showin how she was left alone and not suppoerted by anyone.

  2. I read this too and thought it was very good. I had this awful feeling in my stomach for most of the book – that of nervous anticipation. Really good! 🙂

  3. I have wanted to read this since it first came out but I never seem to have a chance to squeeze it in–I think I’ve checked it out twice now from the library and should just buy my own copy as I am more apt to read it then. Lately library books are just too easy to return unread. I think this has been an off year, too, when it comes to crime, suspense stories, but now I am very much in the mood for them. Will you read the next book as well?

    • I’m very curious to see where she goes from here and if Litlove liked it, I’m sure I will like it as well, so that’s a yes. Not right now but soon.
      I still have e few that came out in 2011 and 2012 to read first though.
      I’m sure you’ll like it. I dreamt of it tonight! It has some unsettling elements.

  4. I’m not much into reader with a feeling of dread, so that kind of thrillers aren’t really for me.
    But I know someone who’d love it, so thanks for bringing it to my attention.

    • It was, wasn’t it? Often I feel it’s done either to push us along or because the author just tries to fill pages, here it’s just perfect. It has none of the flwas first novels occasionally have. And she wrote this during NaNoWriMo. Imagine!
      I’m glad we agree on this one 🙂

  5. This looks like a fast-paced and fascinating thriller, Caroline. I too don’t read books with two timelines much, but when it is written well, it is quite interesting and a pageturner. Glad to know that this book is of the pageturning variety. Thanks for your wonderful review. I will look for this book in the library.

    • Thanks, Vishy, I’m glad you liked it. I hope you will enjoy it, should you read it.
      It just shows that while an idea may be great, the way a book is strcutured can make an average read great.

  6. What’s PTSD?
    The book sounds very interesting…I like when things are unraveled in the end of the book and keeps you wondering through the first pages. I think I might enjoy this book. I haven’t heard of this author yet.

    • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
      Many soldiers have this as well. I hadn’t heard that it can lead to OCD but it makes sense.
      It’s her first novel. It’s really well done. I think you would like it. At first I thought – oh no, why did she create a character who is pself-destructive without questioning this but it all makes sense in the end.

  7. I really enjoyed the novel I read by her and am delighted to know that the other that’s available is just as good – if not better! Will definitely be reading this one!

    • I remember your review made it sound very good too. I’d be curious to know how you like this.
      Have you ever heard of OCD being triggered by PTSD?
      I thought it was interesting but hadn’t heard of it. I liked the therapy part and the way she grew…
      Definitely a writer with potential.

  8. I’ve read that severity of a person’s OCD symptoms is connected to the number of traumatic events they’ve experienced in their lifetime, so this makes sense.
    I’m not a fan of split timelines either (can be so jarring sometimes) but this sounds like a really good read, Caroline.

    • I don’t know a lot about OCD. I’ve only known one person with OCD and now that I think about it, yes, he had experienced some trauma as well. Only it was when he was a little baby. I guess it still affected him deeply.
      It’s a well constructed book and quite gripping.

  9. This one sounds fascinating. We are dealing with a couple of children who seem to be at the beginnings of OCD, hoping to derail it. I am adding this to my library list.

    • I liked that it works on two levels. As a thriller and as a very interesting look at OCD.
      Such an awful affliction. It seems to be curable. I hope the children will be fine.

  10. I’m so glad that this one worked for you too, Caroline. It’s one of my favourite books and I thought it was so well written for a debut and very compelling. I’ve read both of her subsequent novels and would recommend them, the second one is a bit different though and the third is more similar to this one but very dark. I think this one is still my favourite though.

    • I’m glad we feel the same about this. I thought it was really excellent and I’m still full of admiration how well she constrcuted it.
      Good to know the others are great too. I wasn’t aware that there is already a third one out.

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