First line: (following the first Dispatch Log) "In years to come, Flora would remember this as the day of Before and After."
Into the Darkest Corner author, Elizabeth Haynes, kicks off a new series as her protagonist Detective Chief Inspector Louisa Smith leads a murder investigation for the first time. The victim, a young woman savagely beaten to death on the property of a known human trafficker, led a promiscuous lifestyle that results in a suspect list of epic proportions. But forensic evidence uncovered at the scene points Smith and her team to a woman found dead at the bottom of the quarry.
At first glance the quarry victim appears to have taken her own life in a fit of drunken remorse; a closer investigation by Smith’s team indicates that may not be the case at all. They’ll need to filter through the town gossip, uncover secrets and irrevocably change lives in order to unearth the truth.
Haynes’ use of multiple perspectives enhances the suspense of the novel even though the culprit is evident long before the official reveal. The various points of view provide the reader with intimate connections to those characters, so while the murderer isn’t a surprise, the suspense builds more from discovering each person’s fate.
The careful precision with which Haynes crafts her characters results in a fascinating cast overall. The townspeople each have their questionable attributes, but they're also just likeable enough to lend a sense of intrigue. Characters readers don't care about can easily be tossed overboard or dismissed. But when there's a glimmer of a connection, it can spark emotion in the reader...even if that emotion is uncomfortable or disagreeable.
The murder plot is definitely the central element of the novel, but I found myself drawn to the relationships within the police department and look forward to where Haynes will take them in subsequent novels.
Haynes also employs case paperwork throughout the novel. Often overlooked in stories of police investigation—filling out paperwork isn’t very thrilling—her inclusion of official reports and interviews elicits a sense of authenticity and allows the reader to be inside the murder book, privy to the entire investigation. It also breaks up the novel as though chapters within chapters. In much the same way a periodic illustration might, the change in format stands out on the page and draws the eye.
Readers sensitive to graphic sexual content may want to skip this one, Haynes doesn't shy away from the unconventional and she doesn't shy away from detail. But fans of dark, psychological suspense should find much to enjoy Under a Silent Moon.
Under a Silent Moon is available in hardcover (ISBN: 9780062276025) from Harper.
My extended review today is part of the TLC Book Tour for Under a Silent Moon. You can learn more about Elizabeth Haynes and the complete tour at the TLC website.
Disclosure: I do some contractual work for one of the owners of TLC Blog Tours. My work does not involve this tour or any other tour I would agree to be a part of here at the blog. Nor does my work with them obligate me to a specific kind of review. The reviews are still my own opinions and reflect only my thoughts on the novels. If you care to read more, you can find more information on my Disclosure page.