Into the Darkest Corner is a psychological thriller centered around a young woman, Catherine Bailey, and her abusive boyfriend, Lee Brightman. The story is told through alternating timelines – first, when Catherine meets and starts dating the charming Lee and second, four years later when Lee is in jail for what he did to Catherine and she’s moved to London to start a new life. Just when she thinks she’s free of her tormentor, Cathy receives the phone call that Lee is out of prison and back on the streets.
As an intensely psychological novel, I think Into the Darkest Corner succeeds tremendously. Cathy experiences severe PTSD and OCD disorders as the side effects of her traumatic experience with Lee. Haynes writes Cathy’s state of mind with authenticity and complete conviction. You experience the obsessive compulsions with Cathy as she constantly has to check and re-check the safety features of her apartment, at times taking 2-3 hours just to leave her house. I think some readers might get bogged down in the repetitious nature of the ODC descriptions, but I thought they were terribly beneficial in helping the reader understand the depth of Cathy’s illness and fear, while also showcasing her strength, determination, and survival instincts.
The alternating timelines (normally something I’m not a huge fan of) work well here, too. Seeing Cathy’s mental state as a result of the past timeline adds such a great foreboding to the events of four years earlier and help make those pages turn quickly so that we can see for ourselves just how horrible things had to go to reach such a devastating breakdown. Having two extremely suspenseful narratives weaving in and out of each other made for great plot, action, and pacing.
A word of warning – the novel is graphic. Haynes does not paint a pretty picture or cover our eyes to shield us from the worst of Lee’s abuse or Cathy’s party girl ways. You get both humans raw and bare and their relationship in full, gritty detail. You might find Catherine’s sex, drugs, and clubbing nature repulsive – sometimes feeling unable to relate or empathize with her. But I think her indecorous behavior challenges our moral values in the best of ways – did she deserve what she got, did she ask to be abused, or is she completely above recrimination. You see these types of moral conundrums every day. And while I wholeheartedly believe no one deserves such abuse, it was interesting to ponder what might or might not have been.
I think what ultimately pleased me most about Into the Darkest Corner was Catherine’s growth as a character and as a survivor of domestic violence. I appreciated how her journey to recovery was not easy or pretty, but she was determined to find herself again. I couldn’t help but root for her page after page and loved the moment she finally stopped fearing Lee, the moment he no longer had power over her. Kudos to Haynes for keeping the creepy vibe strong throughout the story, right down to the final word.
ELIZABETH HAYNES is a police intelligence analyst. She started writing fiction in 2006 with the annual challenge of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and the encouragement of the creative writing courses at West Dean College. She lives in a village near Maidstone, Kent, with her husband and son.
Thanks to TLC Book Tours and the publisher for a copy of Into the Darkest Corner in exchange for my honest review! Check out the other tour dates here!