When Auntie M met Elizabeth Haynes last summer at Bouchercon, she found a warm, funny family woman with a history of working in police intelligence. Haynes’ darkly creative imagination was behind her first three sterling thrillers: Into the Darkest Corner, Dark Tide, and Human Remains.
Now Haynes is back with an incredible new book, the first of a series, where she brings her past experience into a startling procedural that has her trademark unusual way of telling a story. Under a Silent Moon introduces DCI Louisa Smith, heading up a investigation team in London’s suburbs.
What sets this novel apart from the usual police procedural is the device Haynes uses, containing a mix of police reports, witness statements, call logs and crime charts that add superb layers to the complex story and very human characters she creates. Haynes’ graphs and charts are the ones used in reality, and they add an extra layer to the book, while showing the inner workings of a real police investigation like never before. It also explains the role of the civilian police analyst and how their work aids and interweaves with the police.
Two women in horse country are dead, and Lou and her team must establish if their deaths are related. At a farm outside a small English village, a lovely young woman had been found murdered, the bloody scene a testament to her last minutes. In a nearby quarry, a car fallen into holds the body of an older woman and is at first considered a suicide. But is there a link between the two women and their deaths?
When it’s found that the first victim, Polly Leuchars, had open sexual relationships with many people of both sexes, the suspect list grows. Then an elusive woman who may have been involved in Polly’s circle brings drama of a different kind to a member of Lou’s team. There will be hasty decisions, regrets, and lives brought close to the brink of death before it all comes together.
Haynes has a wonderful grasp of human relations and emotions, and by telling the story from multiple points of view, she maintains a steady, growing tension that affects Lou and her team as they move to separate motive and opportunity within the lies they are being told. By having the same information Lou and her team are privy to at their fingertips, the reader feels they are uniquely involved in getting to the truth as Lou’s team investigates. It’s a wonderful device that immediately keeps the reader flipping pages to the next point of the view, the next interview, the next chart, at the same time as readers are caught up in the emotions and private stories of Lou and her team. It’s to Haynes’ credit that she manages to bring her police team off as every bit as human as the victims and suspects they are interviewing.
This is the first of a planned series and DCI Lou Smith is more than capable of holding the reader’s attention for future novels. Highly recommended.