Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Into the Darkest Corner (Review)

Title: Into the Darkest Corner
Author: Elizabeth Haynes
Publication Information: Hardcover, July 2012, ISBN 978006-2197252
Genre: Suspense
Setting: London

Plot: Told alternatively in the present and past, Into the Darkest Corner is a convincing and unnerving before-and-after story of Catherine Bailey, an outgoing young woman who loves to party and is sometimes too drunk to remember her one-nighters.  Then she meets a seemingly perfect guy, Lee Brightman.  Her friends think he is wonderful and before she knows it, he has moved in with her and taken over her life.  Soon she realizes he is controlling, unreasonable and violent.  He also turns out to be a policeman (which I didn't believe at first) and tries to break up with him and change the locks, but nothing can keep him away.   The reader feels every vicious word and every blow as his behavior escalates out of control.
Several years later, she is Cathy, living in a new city, recovered from life threatening injuries and trying to control her panic attacks by carefully checking every detail in her apartment – particularly whether the door is locked.  She desperately needs a friend, and luckily the new renter upstairs, Stuart Richardson, is kind, attractive, single, and – bonus – a clinical psychologist.  You would think he’d run a mile from her problems, which he picks up on right away, but even in her new pale, restrained and worried persona, he is attracted to Cathy.  She is afraid to get involved with anyone but just as she starts to fall for Stuart, there are signs that Lee is coming after her again…

What I liked: Although the flashback style seemed vaguely derivative of other books, it was very effective for building up the suspense: first, Lee’s taking over Catherine’s life and turning her friends against her, leading to a desperate attempt to escape from him and his resulting rage; second, Cathy’s attempt to rebuild her life and fall in love again, which is jeopardized when she starts catching glimpses of Lee in her neighborhood.  The way her friends and the police dismiss Catherine’s fears is as upsetting for the reader as it is for her, and the betrayal by one of her best friend reminds one of every time a friendship was damaged because of a man. 

What I disliked:  Overall, I greatly enjoyed the book and only put it down reluctantly during the two days I took to read it.   It was hard to sleep at night and for once I heard every random creak in my 100-year-old house, thinking about Lee terrorizing Cathy.  I did find the heroine hard to like: in the beginning she was a heedless party girl, and afterwards she was (understandably) traumatized and paranoid, but thus not very appealing.  It was painful when she started to sense the presence of her ex or when she found clues he had left for her and no one believed her, including the new boyfriend, but it was sort of hard to believe she could fall in love with all this trauma going on.

Source: I received an advance reading copy from HarperCollins of this debut thriller, and look forward to hearing more from this author.  

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