Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes
Summary from the publisher:
Catherine Bailey has been enjoying the single life long enough to know a catch when she sees one. Gorgeous, charismatic and spontaneous, Lee seems almost too perfect to be true. And her friends clearly agree, as each in turn falls under his spell.
But what begins as flattering attentiveness and passionate sex turns into raging jealousy, and Catherine soon learns there is a darker side to Lee. His increasingly erratic, controlling behavior becomes frightening, but no one believes her when she shares her fears. Increasingly isolated and driven into the darkest corner of her world, a desperate Catherine plans a meticulous escape.
Four years later, Lee is behind bars and Catherine—now Cathy—compulsively checks the locks and doors in her apartment, trusting no one. But when an attractive upstairs neighbor, Stuart, comes into her life, Cathy dares to hope that happiness and love may still be possible . . . until she receives a phone call informing her of Lee’s impending release. Soon after, Cathy thinks she catches a glimpse of the former best friend who testified against her in the trial; she begins to return home to find objects subtly rearranged in her apartment, one of Lee’s old tricks. Convinced she is back in her former lover’s sights, Cathy prepares to wrestle with the demons of her past for the last time.
It’s been a long time since I’ve read something this frightening. From the very first page, my heart started pounding. When Cathy met Stuart about a quarter of the way in, I was so mistrustful that I couldn’t believe he was a genuinely nice human being. By the end, I couldn’t walk by a door without thinking of Cathy going through her checking. This book had officially crawled under my skin and invaded my life, and I loved it.
The credit here goes to Elizabeth Haynes, who makes an astonishing debut with a book that truly merits the genre of thriller. She expertly built the tension as she moved back and forth between 2004, when Cathy was in the relationship with Lee, and 2007, when Cathy learned of Lee’s release from prison just as she was beginning to move past everything. Both situations reach their height in tandem, and it was incredible to see the contrast between the beaten down Cathy of 2004 and the warrior Cathy of 2007, and the common thread of strength in both.
If the tension wasn’t enough, the subject matter made the story even more powerful. As I read, all I could think of was that this would be one of my worst nightmares: to be in a mentally and physically abusive relationship with a controlling psychopath who has managed to turn all of my friends against me, leaving me completely alone. Cathy’s situation is very real, yet in a departure from similar stories, she points out something that really struck me: before Lee, she regarded battered women with scorn for not leaving at the first sign of abuse, but in hindsight, it’s not at all that simple, because part of you wants to hold on to the tender moments, and part of you is afraid of what will happen if you try to leave.
The psychological elements were also extremely fascinating. It’s clear that the author did a lot of research into how OCD develops, why the habits persist, and the various forms of therapy; it all resulted in a very authentic recovery for Cathy, complete with backslides and anxiety attacks, not to mention the fact that she’s not necessarily cured of her disorder, rather she’s found an effective way to manage it.
Into the Darkest Corner is easily up there with Gone Girl as one of the best thrillers of summer, if not the year. Thanks to the fabulous Maggie from Lemuria Books for recommending it to me, and to the equally fabulous folks at Harper Books for sending me an ARC!