Liam O'brien's Reviews > Into the Darkest Corner

Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes
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Apr 25, 12

Read in April, 2012

I read this for Book Club. Author is a police intelligence analyst and it shows. Both in terms of technical specifics (police procedure) and in language (flat). Is this a compelling read? Yes, but beyond that, not really; the center cannot hold. I've already seen "Enough" and "Sleeping With The Enemy", so, okay, dude meets girl, dude seems nice, dude is mysterious, dude gets violent, relationship becomes horrifying one-sided cage match. It's hard to read some of the squirmier scenes of violence, but the characters are so thin it's difficult to care very deeply. Lee, the abuser, is a violent psychopath. Cathy, the narrator, is sympathetic but is difficult to keep in my sympathy crosshairs due to the object of her affection being such an uncompelling focus for anything other than hatred. Yes, abusive relationships are emotionally problematic, and never black or white, but this kind of relationship on the page can only work when it doesn't so often just hit the standard template for "abusive boyfriend" that we've seen a zillion times. This book teases out the tension by telling the story of the relationship alongside that of the aftermath several years later. The narrator's most compelling struggle, to overcome her severe trauma-induced OCD, unfolds as we find out more and more of why she became the way she is. Which is what was intriguing at first; though Haynes basically sets us up to hate and be suspicious of Lee from the jump, opening the book with a "court transcript" portraying his prosecution for abuse, we see Cathy struggle and ultimately find love and redemption through her battles her PTSD and OCD. Then the abuser is let out of jail and things start going to shit again.

But it doesn't add up. The ending is rushed and too action-movie pat, the relationship Cathy ends up in with her neighbor who's also a shrink (of course) feels trite and also uneasily makes it seem like Cathy would be doomed without a man in her life. Which, again, believable, but not as redemptive as it might seem in theory, and too neat. I skimmed the last 30 pages on the subway. It's overlong and loses a lot of the steam it builds up in the first half. Still, a crowd-pleaser.
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