Catherine Bailey is a young, carefree woman out clubbing with her friends when she meets the tall hunky Lee Brightman policing the VIP entrance at one of the clubs. She's pleasantly surprised when Lee shows an interest in her and soon they're spending a lot of time together. Lee's job at the club is just a side gig, Catherine learns. He's helping out a friend; his regular job involves undercover work and he leaves for days at a time and doesn't talk about the work. Catherine's friends all envy her fortune at finding such a wonderful guy. But Catherine soon learns Lee isn't as wonderful as he leads everyone to believe. His behavior morphs into controlling, violent actions against Catherine. As she tries to figure out how to escape this threatening relationship, her friends seem to turn against her...
Four years later, Lee is in jail and Catherine is going by Cathy, living far from her former home. Everyday she must check the doors, windows and silverware tray - obsessively. When she comes home from work she has to check them again. Everywhere she goes she thinks she sees Lee. She can only shop on certain days; she has to drink her tea at specific times; and she varies her route home from work every day so no one can discern a pattern to her route. Panic attacks have become a regular part of her life, but it's a life she controls and understands. So when psychologist Stuart Richardson moves into the flat above hers and encourages her to work on letting go of the obsessive behaviors, the safe bubble she's worked so hard to keep herself in pops, and Cathy discovers it's o.k. until she receives a call on Christmas Eve informing her Lee has been released from jail...
Into the Darkest Corner is written in alternating flashback scenes and present day. Elizabeth Haynes simultaneous shows Catherine's life falling apart as Cathy's life is coming together. When those two time periods collide, Cathy/Catherine experiences an explosive change. This plot effect works brilliantly at building suspense, keeping the reader turning pages with a perverse interest: you desperately want to know what happens but at the same time you're terrified to know. In your head you'll hear the music movies play to build anxiety in the audience. Similarly, Catherine never knew what to expect when Lee would come through her door either. So Haynes puts the reader in Catherine's shoes through this effect as well.
One of the most fascinating elements of this book is the way Haynes details the progression of the abusive relationship and helps the reader to see that just walking away, like so many people insist abusive victims should do, is not always as easy as we'd like to believe. And Haynes developes Lee's character so articulately as the chameleon that the handsome, charming police officer is far scarier than any horror villain with a chainsaw or hockey mask.
99% of this novel is stellar and Haynes shows exceptional promise as a psychological thriller writer. My only disappointment was the ending. Without giving any spoilers, I simply felt that the novel runs out of steam and the end kind of falls off. The energy and power of the novel all the way through didn't seem to match the end. Despite that, I would highly recommend people check out Into the Darkest Corner. This debut novel kept me up literally all night long, and the reading experience was well worth the 400 pages.
Into the Darkest Corner is available in hardcover (ISBN: 978-0062197252) from Harper starting June 5, 2012.
My review is part of the TLC Blog Tour. I encourage you to check out what some of the other bloggers on the tour have to say about Into the Darkest Corner. You can find links to their sites here.