Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Into the Darkest Corner

Into the Darkest Corner is the gripping debut novel from British author Elizabeth Haynes. In the novel we meet Catherine Bailey, a pretty twenty-something year old party girl who has seemingly met the man of her dreams in Lee Brightman, a sexy, charismatic and mysterious hottie who quickly wins her heart and that of all of her friends. But while the sex is steamy and all her friends are jealous, dark clouds are suddenly on the horizon when prince charming transforms into a jealous control freak, who questions every outing with friends and every wardrobe decision. When the situation starts to spiral out of control, Catherine turns to her friends for help, only to find they've turned against her. Desperate and afraid for her very life, Catherine begins to plan her escape

Four years later, Lee's in jail and Catherine - now Cathy - is fighting to build a new life, and at times it seems, fighting for her very sanity. When she meets Stuart, her new neighbor, Cathy finally begins to see a glimmer of hope for her future, but her worst fears come to life when she receives a call that Lee has been released from jail. Faced with the realization that it's not a matter of if, but when Lee will come after her, Cathy has to decide whether to run again or instead stand and fight for herself and her future.

Into the Darkest Corner truly lives up to all the quotes on the book jacket. It was sexy, suspenseful and an edge of your seat psychological thriller. The story's chapters alternate from the idyllic start of Catherine's love story with Lee, to the present day Cathy who has healed physically from his abuse but is still coping with the emotional scars left behind including anxiety attacks, OCD, and a life lived in constant fear of what and most importantly who is right around each corner. I loved the juxtaposition of Catherine/Cathy's two very disparate realities; on one page you're sharing in Catherine's giddy excitement at the onset of her relationship with Lee:

November 16, 2003..."The fact that I couldn't decide on anything to say almost made me laugh - normally it was difficult to shut me up. I wanted to ask if he'd enjoyed his swim, but that sounded inane; I wanted to ask if he was single, but that was too direct. I wanted to know if he'd been waiting for me. All of these questions, and, I realized, I already knew the answers. Yes, yes, and yes."
Only to jump in the next page to reading of the nightmares wrought on Cathy's life by the sexy monster:

November 17, 2007..."My weekends are a curious mixture of relaxation and stress. Some weekends are good; others, not so. Certain dates are good. I can only go food shopping on even-numbered days. If the thirteenth falls on a weekend, I can't do anything at all. On odd-numbered days, I can exercise, but only if it's cloudy or raining, not if it's sunny. On odd-numbered days, I can't cook food, I can only eat cold things or heat stuff up. All of this is to keep my brain placated. All of the time, day and night, my brain generates images of things that have happened to me and things that might happen. It's like watching a horror movie over and over again, without ever becoming immune to the terror."
It's that juxtaposition that adds to the suspense. The reader is gripped with a frantic sense of inevitability; it's like knowing an accident is about to happen, but not being able to stop it. You are alternately afraid and horrified, yet equally captivated and hopeful with every page turned.

Into the Darkest Corner is a beautifully crafted and incredibly well-written story that builds momentum like a runaway train. All the more incredible when you consider that it's the author's first novel.