Book Review – Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes

If you’re looking for a book that will keep you up past bed time, read Into The Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes. It’s darker than You – Caroline Kepnes Book Review and I think it got some influences from Rose Madder * Stephen King (you’ll know why if you read it). It’s definitely a book to be added to Books dealing with mental health

In Into the Darkest Corner, Catherine’s passionate relationship with Lee takes a nasty turn when she discovers his dark violent side. Things go from bad to worse when she tries to break it off with him. When her friends don’t believe her and she can see no other options, she plans her escape. Four years later, Lee is in jail and Catherine, now going by Cathy, is trying to start over. She tries to keep her constant fear at bay by checking and rechecking that her apartment is safe and secure. Eventually, she befriends her new neighbour, Stuart, who encourages her to deal with her fears in other ways. As time goes by and their relationship deepens, she starts feeling a little better and is beginning trust him. It’s then that she gets a phone call that changes everything. 
I raced through this book in one day. I couldn’t put it down.  I loved this psychological thriller.  It was so good. It that had me on the edge of my seat from the beginning to end…right to the very last page. There were a couple of holes in the story, but I was willing to overlook those because I loved the premise and the style in which it was written.

The story alternates between two time frames: 2003/2004 when Catherine was in a relationship with Lee, and 2007/2008 when Lee is in jail and Cathy is suffering the consequences of his abuse, but trying to move on with her life.

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Cathy Bailey is a young woman enjoying the single life until she meets the charismatic Lee. He’s charming, good looking and seems to be the perfect catch – until his darker side is revealed.
Four years later, Cathy is suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and struggling to keep her life on track.  Haynes offers up one of the most effective uses of alternating past/present narratives that I’ve ever read. It’s so… unsettling to see the character of Catherine as she was before and as she is now – it at first seems like you’re reading the POVs of two different characters. But not only that, it’s the development of Lee himself that is even worse.

Haynes, the author, jumped between the two time frames quite frequently, so it always felt like the story was moving along. I loved this format. I think it’s the contrast between the now and then of the story that makes Into the Darkest Corner so powerful.

9781921922541.jpgIt took a little while to get used to it, but it was awesome once I figured out what was going on. This style made the story extremely intense, scary and very suspenseful. I got totally engrossed in the story to the point where I was anxious and nervous while I was reading. It even gave me nightmares. I believe this is the first book to ever do so. Despite that, I didn’t want to stop reading and I couldn’t wait to get back to the book each time I put it down.

The story highlighted some key issues that are unfortunately current and relevant in our society: domestic violence, obsessive/compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). That made the story hard to read at times, especially because the violence was so graphically portrayed. I don’t know anyone who’s been on either end of domestic violence (at least as far as I know), but it was horrible just reading about it. I think the author did a good job of answering some key questions, such as “Why didn’t she just leave?”, “Why didn’t she tell someone?”. The OCD was interesting. I don’t know how Cathy was able to hold down a job without serious repercussions; I’m not sure the author explained that well enough.

I was thinking when I was reading – “this should be a red flag”. “You shouldn’t allow him to do that”. “Boundaries are good things”. It’s a cautionary tale of letting someone into your life without knowing too much about them…

“He would let himself in whenever he felt like it, come and go as he pleased. I remembered when this was such a big deal for me, not so long ago. I’d wanted my own space, my front door that I could lock behind me and know for sure that nobody was going to be inside there without me. I remembered telling him that I wanted that space back. I remembered asking him for the key, and him walking away from me. I remembered him simply walking away and leaving, without so much as an argument.” 

It takes her a very long time to change the locks, but all that does is give him a challenge of getting into her apartment through other means and ways and leaving small clues behind. The knife in the forks compartment, a picture under the duvet, a button in her jeans.

On the Thursday I called an emergency locksmith and had the locks changed on the front door and the back door

Why she took him back was a head butter. The fact that he went to her friends with a sob story would have been a massive red flag and worthy of a telling off (for her friends). Her OCD started when he would follow her or let himself in without warning. She would check and re-check the door. This continued well after he was jailed and this sums it up properly:

Then for some reason I’ve not done it properly one day, and that’s no good at all, because if you’re going to do something that’s for your own benefit, you’ve got to do it properly or there’s no point.

She is doing this not nearly out of compulsion but because it’s a matter of survival. If he finds her again, she needs to be safe. Secure. Unreachable.

The one part that bothered me in the story was that Cathy’s recovery seemed a little too perfect. When she suspected that someone has been sneaking into her apartment and moving things around, she took it too calmly. I was still scared of what was going to happen, so why wasn’t she? I don’t want to give too much away so I’ll leave it at that.

The book is very well written and is remarkably a debut novel.
Into the Darkest Corner is a suspenseful thriller about domestic violence and its lingering effects.

Haynes also provides an interesting insight into living and dealing with OCD. An exceptionally good psychological thriller that kept me on edge for most of the book.

Into the Darkest Corner was named Amazon’s Best Book of the Year 2011

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