Review – Human Remains by Elizabeth Haynes

By | March 18, 2013

Like everyone else it seems, I discovered Elizabeth Haynes’ writing through her magnificent debut, Into the Darkest Corner. Her second, Revenge of the Tide, was good too, but maybe lacking a little something for me.  But as for this one – it really is absolutely fantastic, arguably her best yet, and I’ve honestly never read anything quite like it.

The whole book is incredibly original, and all the more engaging because of its grounding in mundane everyday life.  As a central character, we have Annabel, a police analyst who lives alone with her cat Lucy, dissatisfied in life and work, running round after her ungrateful elderly mother.  First, she discovers the death of a neighbour – alone and inexplicable.  Then, through her work, she discovers that there has been a significant increase in the number of people dying alone at home within her small town. She struggles to get anyone interested – surely the increase has to be significant in some way – until local journalist Sam Everett picks up on the story. 

The individual behind the deaths is a magnificent creation who makes your blood run cold: and there’s a constant underlying humour and incongruity that makes him all the more chilling.  The story is told through Annabel and the man behind it all, but interspersed with the voices of those who have died – and the whole structure works really well.  Some of the stories are really touching, wonderful vignettes of the lives of the lonely. And she really gets under the skin and into the minds of her two main characters – in different ways, it’s an uncomfortable and fascinating place to be.

This is a story that makes you sweat and your pulse race, 100% believable, magnificently dark, incredibly exciting, and I defy anyone to put it down for anything but the briefest of pauses before its fantastic ending. It will stay with me a long time, and I’ll always dress properly, put my make-up on and smile when I do an evening supermarket shop from now on – and run a mile if anyone touches me on the arm.

And, best of all, I still can’t believe that the Kindle edition is still available for just £1.59 as I write (check before clicking…).

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