Elizabeth Haynes’s CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger longlisted Into the Darkest Corner has been quite a success due to keen marketing and, more importantly, word of mouth. All this is richly deserved as Into the Darkest Corner is a psychological thriller packed with tension and suspense, and the author also bravely tackles some difficult issues in its themes: domestic violence and obsessive compulsive disorder.
Catherine had thrust herself with true abandon into the single life until the charming, gorgeous and charismatic Lee came along. All her friends think he is wonderful, so when another side to him emerges, a darker, manipulative and terrorising nature, Catherine finds herself isolated. Where she eventually escapes him, moves across the country and moves on with her life – albeit still suffering from long term effects in the form of OCD – her hopes of a safe haven are shattered four years later by a single phone call…
Opening with a transcript of the court case concerning Lee and Catherine, immediately we have a sense of how the relationship ended. Haynes then cleverly interweaves Catherine’s story between two timeframes: her time with Lee in 2003/4 and later in 2007/8. In those later years, we meet Catherine as a victim who has rebuilt her life, who is ready to embrace further help and consider a new relationship. But, and acutely relayed by Haynes here, we also feel Catherine’s paranoia still manifesting itself in suffocating bursts of OCD where she checks locks to the nth degree and seeks comfort in other elements of potential persistent stability always checked out.
The changing timeframes may jolt at first, but this is a novel very well worth sticking with where the jolts quickly become an anticipated rhythm akin to the human heartbeat. Further jolts will arise when reading and these will be due to some hairy moments which arrive aplenty. Catherine’s present is haunted by her past and with Stuart, her benevolent new medical beau, it is possible to wonder if she is falling for the same charm again. Is he as altruistic as presented or another manipulator?
This is a debut of such strength you have to wonder if Haynes is the next Minette Walters. Into the Darkest Corner is not without the odd slightly rough edge, but Haynes has the spirit and the insight of Walters making her one to watch. A superb debut.