” Do you know what the worst thing was? It wasn’t sitting in there, in that room, waiting for him to come back and kill me. It wasn’t being hit, it wasn’t the pain, it wasn’t even being raped. It was that afterward, nobody, not even my best friend, believed me. ” (Saturday 2 February 2008, p.223)
Elizabeth Haynes’ debut is a page-turner that keeps me up reading late at night It’s spine-schilling and riveting. The story focuses on Catherine Bailey set in the past and the present four years apart. In the recent past, in 2003, Catherine is a fun-loving young professional who enjoys her job and parties with a cabal of friends. When she meets handsome and mysterious Lee Brightman, she seems to have it all. But instead of every woman’s dream, blond, blue-eyed, gorgeous-looking Lee turns out to be a woman’s nightmare. The fast love and passionate sex turn into a fatal obsession that nearly kills Catherine.
Turned out later than he’d driven to where I work, found my car in the parking lot, opened it with his spare key and checked that the mileage on my car was right, meaning that I hadn’t been anywhere without letting him know. He knows exactly how many miles my car has done, and how many miles it is from home to work and vice versa. I cannot deviate from the route. (Friday 21 May 2004, p.258)
Manipulative and controlling, Lee becomes more and more violent until he nearly kills her—after she falls into a trap he carefully orchestrated. He goes to extraordinary lengths to control Catherine using his experience in the police, while convincing her friends that Catherine is the obsessive girlfriend. Haynes uses alternating narratives to burrow into a harrowing story. There’s the 2003 Catherine, meeting Lee, falling in love, then descending into hell; and the Catherine four years later, surviving physical and sexual abuse but still living in the shadow of the horror. The alternating narratives are direct counterpoints of Catherine’s struggle, the cause and effect. The scene of Lee’s break-ins is juxtaposed with Cathy’s OCD with locks and windows. Her residual trauma at the hands of Lee has left its lingering scars. She is afflicted by debilitating panic attacks and post-trauma stress depression.
I was fine right up until the moment I shoved my hands into my jeans pocket, searching for a tissue, and instead pulled out a button, a tiny button covered in red satin, a scrap of red satin fabric behind it, screwed up tightly as though someone had twisted and twisted it around until it had finally torn off. (Thursday 28 February 2008, p.268)
Pulsated with tension and suspense, the narratives with concurrent time lines slowly evolve then meet—and collide, as Catherine, with the help of a psychologist-cum-neighbor, gradually confronts her fears and seeks medical treatment. This book is captivating from beginning to end, although some parts of it on the physical abuse can be very disturbing to read. Haynes creates the terror of domestic abuse in a way that feels real and yet so very unusual. Her description of Catherine’s affliction really captures her inner turmoil. That she has somehow extricated herself from the relationship with Lee and yet still in some danger from him is what keeps reader intrigued and engrossed.
400 pp. Harper Collins. Mass Paper. [Read|Skim|Toss] [Buy|Borrow]
Filed under: Books, Contemporary Literature, General Fiction, Mystery, Thriller Tagged: | Books, Contemporary Literature, Crime Fiction, Elizabeth Haynes, General Fiction, Into the Darkest Corner, Mystery, Thriller