Under A Silent Moon, Elizabeth Haynes’ latest book, differs from her previous novels.
Her other books were more stand alone psychological thrillers than this one which can be classified as a series police procedural. What makes this novel intriguing is the way she presents the crime investigation, through the source documents.
Readers should connect one of the team’s investigating detectives, Sam Hollands, from the Haynes’ first book, Into The Darkest Corner. Louisa Smith is introduced as the formidable DCI, heading the investigation of two victims. The first is a beautiful young woman brutally killed in her cottage, while the second is a suspected suicide at a nearby quarry, when her car plunged to the bottom of a pit. The investigation takes place over the course of six days where it becomes apparent that these two deaths are related.
Intertwined throughout the novel is fictional source material, including police reports, phone messages, interviews, witness statements, emails, forensic reports analysis documents, and charts. This enables the reader to feel they are part of Smith’s investigation team, collecting the clues as they attempt to solve the crime. Even the chapter titles allows for the reader to stay in the setting since they are named with the day, date, and time. However, if these document sources become a bit detailed, and they are skipped, nothing is lost in understanding the storyline.
The author commented to blackfive.net, “This is the book I always wanted to write. As a police analyst I would get the real sense of the story, the real crime, from these documents. Investigators effectively piece together the puzzle as the investigation unfolds. I thought I can write a novel just from these documents with the reader being able to fill in the gaps and can see how the story unfolds. The reader could act like an investigator if they so chose.”
As in all her books, Haynes has a dark side to the story with graphic sex and violence. Yet, these add to the plot as she tries to show the dark side of humanity through affairs, sexual encounters, jealousy, desire, and greed. The relationships begin to overlap and a strong theme throughout is the father/daughter relationship.
Interestingly enough is that in this book the main characters are the police not the victims or suspects.
She noted to blackfive.net, “In a crime novel there is a lot of graphic sex out there that is part of the crime. With Into The Darkest Corner the sex scenes were very real for me and not gratuitous. As times I wanted to stop writing that because I wasn’t comfortable with it. It was stomach churning for me, and gave the readers a feeling that this is just not right. With these current scenes I wanted to show that it was not put in for pleasure but to show how someone could use it to manipulate and control, as part of a power play. This is a thread running through all my books.”
Haynes also feels as a working mother she needs to balance motherhood and professional life. For example she asked that the interview be postponed for an hour so she could have dinner with her ten-year-old son. She also told of another example, being invited to speak at a crime festival on a Friday. “I said I would do it but only on a Saturday or Sunday because that particular Friday was my son’s class celebration for finishing primary school. Amazingly they allowed me to speak on the weekend so I was able to balance my career and my family.”
Under A Silent Moon is much more of a plot-based book than a character based one as Haynes has written in the past. However this novel allows the reader to analyze much more as they are riveted to this gripping page-turner.