Elizabeth Haynes is a police intelligence officer who started her first novel during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and the result is this highly compelling suspense novel which gives readers a look into the psychology of romantic obsession. Haynes say her work analyzing crime and intelligence to determine patterns in offending and criminal behavior led her to learn things she used in this debut novel, which was named Amazon UK’s Best Book of the Year for 2011, with rights sold in twelve other countries and film rights snatched up by Revolution Films.
“I ‘d always thought that women who stayed in abusive relationships must be foolish … Why would you stay? … It wasn’t about walking away anymore. It was about running … It was about escape.”
This becomes the thought process of Catherine Bailey, a free-spirited young woman who enjoys partying with her circle of friends in Lancaster, England. Meeting Lee Brightman at a club one night seems to change her life; their connection is immediate, their chemistry explosive. Soon they are almost inseparable, and Catherine is the envy of her friends.
Things change as Lee exerts his dominant nature and Catherine has nagging doubts about him. He refuses to discuss his background or his work; his intensity soon becomes overwhelming. When items start being shifted around in her house, she suspects Lee has been there without her; she start to feel followed and watched. Lee admits to all of this, confessing that his job as an undercover police officer demands his secrecy and blames these for his rapid mood swings, even as he starts to isolate her from her friends, and eventually become physically violent.
Haynes device here is to run two alternate time lines, so that even in the midst of Catherine’s growing relationship and subsequent realization of Lee’s dark and abusive personality, we see her four years hence. Living in London as Cathy, with a new job and a new appearance, she is trying to piece together a new life, as she experiences painful flashbacks and panic attacks from Lee’s eventual savage attack that left her near death. Suffering from severe OCD and PTSD has allowed her fragile life to continue, albeit as the same routines she sought to keep her safe have become debilitating compulsive actions.
Her salvation comes in the form of the upstairs lodger, a doctor who sees through her defences and encourages her to seek treatment and face her demons. Stuart Richardson holds the promise of a future out to the very-damaged Cathy, one she never thought she’d have–until the day she receives a call that Lee is being released from jail, and she knows without a doubt that he will come after her.
The reader follows Lee’s blooming relationship with Catherine, yet we are already seeing the damage it’s done in the passages from Cathy. When these two storylines converge, the tracks merge into one horrifying present. As Cathy’s painful efforts to heal herself keep readers tightly bound to her, they will still wonder if she can match the devious nature of her former lover. A twist with a surprise betrayal affects the reader as much as Cathy, and adds to the rising suspense near the horrific climax of a novel readers won’t be able to put down.
This is a harrowing psychological thriller, with a chilling, suspenseful pace that keeps ratcheting up the tension. Hayne’s unflinching portrayal of Lee’s abuse is countered with her compassionate treatment of OCD and the cycles of that disorder. Library Journal states: “… Fans of S. J. Watson, Lisa Gardner and Susan Hill will welcome this new entrant to the genre.”