Behind Closed Doors

Auntie M cannot deny she is a huge Elizabeth Haynes fan. From her first stand-alones (Into the Darkest Corner, Dark Tide, Human Remains), Haynes has taken the crime thriller and stood it on its ear with her original and creative storytelling combined with empathy for the human condition. Last year’s Under a Silent Moon continued these hallmarks while adding a strong female protagonist to a new series.

Now Haynes brings back a second installment featuring DCI Lou Smith in Behind Closed Doors, set forty miles outside London in fictional Briarstone. Auntie M is pleased report it’s every bit as well written and compelling as Haynes’ other novels, led by a character who is a fully-formed woman with relationships and devotion to her job that often conflict.

Haynes draws on her background as a former police intelligence analyst to create the device that sets this procedural series apart. She notes in interviews that she’s fascinated by the documentary evidence that accumulates during an investigation, like a jigsaw puzzle to which pieces are added daily. She uses primary policing source materials reproduced for the reader, such as police reports, interviews, analyst research, even phone messages, which add a depth and texture to the books that allow the reader to become completely immersed in Sam’s investigation when a young woman missing for a decade suddenly reappears.

Scarlett Rainsford was a fifteen-year-old enjoying her first taste of love during a family holiday in Greece, until her abduction became Lou Smith’s biggest professional regret when the case went cold without Scarlett being found. Ten years later a raid on a brothel turns up Scarlett, alive and well, and Sam needs to find out where the young woman was for all of those years, and more importantly, how and why she reappeared in England without contacting her family.

Assisting Sam is her sergeant, Sam Hollands, and the rest of her team, and as with all detective teams, this is not the only case on their plates. Activity between rival gangs have led to a murder and a violent assault, yet no one is talking, making their investigation that much harder.

Here is Haynes in her own words, describing what prompted this intriguing novel where the past is revealed in stages in contrast to Sam’s current investigation, adding yet another layer to this absorbing and original story:

“The starting point for Scarlett’s story is inspired in part by the shocking number of people who go missing every year, many thousands, and by the number that are never heard of again. In Scarlett’s case, I wanted to tell the store of her ‘missing’ years, but in doing so to examine how she might handle the truth–what she might want to reveal, and what she holds back, and why. As well as researching the law enforcement research around trafficking, I read several first-person accounts of trafficked women and I found it terrifying to think of all the women effectively forced into slavery, with very little hope of escape. Trafficking in Europe is something that is under-reported and woefully misunderstood. People think of prostitutes as working in their profession by choice, but the majority is forced into it, and living a precarious, dangerous existence with no real way of getting out.”

Find out how Scarlett does manage to get out, and yet why she hasn’t let anyone know she’s made it back to England. One of the strengths of this story is Haynes’ ability to make her story revolve as much around Lou and her investigation as it does around a victim who is not a dead body but a living woman with a horrific past. Highly recommended.

Now

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