Review: Behind Closed Doors by Elizabeth Haynes

behind closed doors by elizabeth haynesFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genre: thriller
Series: DCI Louisa Smith #2
Length: 496 pages
Publisher: Harper
Date Released: March 31, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

An old case makes Detective Inspector Louisa Smith some new enemies in this spellbinding second installment of New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Haynes’s Briarstone crime series that combines literary suspense and page-turning thrills.

Ten years ago, 15-year-old Scarlett Rainsford vanished while on a family holiday in Greece. Was she abducted, or did she run away from her severely dysfunctional family? Lou Smith worked the case as a police constable, and failing to find Scarlett has been one of the biggest regrets of her career. No one is more shocked than Lou to learn that Scarlett has unexpectedly been found during a Special Branch raid of a brothel in Briarstone.

Lou and her Major Crime team are already stretched working two troubling cases: nineteen-year-old Ian Palmer was found badly beaten; and soon after, bar owner Carl McVey was found half-buried in the woods, his Rolex and money gone. While Lou tries to establish the links between the two cases, DS Sam Hollands works with Special Branch to question Scarlett. What happened to her? Where has she been until now? How did she end up back here? And why is her family–with the exception of her emotionally fragile younger sister, Juliette–less than enthusiastic about her return?

When another brutal assault and homicide are linked to the McVey murder, Lou’s cases collide, and the clues all point in one terrifying direction. As the pressure and the danger mount, it becomes clear that the silent, secretive Scarlett holds the key to everything.

My Review:

The case in this story is fascinating and incredibly chilling. Both the detective and the victim are women worth watching, although in completely different ways.

under a silent moon by elizabeth haynesDetective Chief Inspector (DCI) Louisa Smith’s first case as a new DCI was told in Under a Silent Moon (reviewed here). It was a story where we both see into the intimate details of police procedures and watch as DCI Smith learns how to be a boss instead of just one of the truths.

She makes mistakes in both her personal and her professional life, but she gets the case mostly solved – some of it touches on organized crime organizations that have been operating for years, so just one case, no matter how big and bloody, is not enough to bring everyone involved to justice.

But while Smith is still tying up loose ends from that case, one of her very first cases as a Detective Constable, ten years ago, crawls out of the past and into the present. And it has ties to the organized crime case she is still trying to wrap up.

Scarlett Rainsford was 15 in 2003. She disappeared from a family vacation in Greece, and was never heard from again. Based on the evidence at the time, it was believed that she had been killed and her body never found.

In 2013 her body, very much still alive, is discovered in a sex trafficking sting near her parents’ home. Scarlett is not herself a prostitute, but she is working in a brothel and certainly knows what’s going on. The question is how she got there.

We see Scarlett’s story in flashbacks to her abduction and later life. Considering where she is found, it is not a complete surprise how she got there. What catches you by the throat is why she got there.

Not that she is telling, because she is keeping as quiet as possible. She doesn’t want to reveal what she knows about the brothel, and she doesn’t want to go back to her parents. (She’s 25 now and doesn’t have to.)

DCI Smith is now leading the investigation into how Scarlett got trafficked back to Britain, and where the original investigation went wrong. What she uncovers is a cesspit of lies, all leading back to Scarlett’s parents.

We’re not sure until the very end exactly what started Scarlett down the path to where she ends up, but we know it was awful. Her traffickers are neither the first nor the worst people to abuse her in her young life.

All she’s ever wanted is to save her younger sister Juliette. But they are trapped in a situation where no one can truly be saved.

It’s up to DCI Smith and her team to pick up and sort out the bloody pieces.

Escape Rating A-: Smith’s personal life, her hangups about her family and her possibly together possibly apart possibly breaking up relationship with her boyfriend sometimes take focus away from a case that will chill you right down to your toes, and probably keep you awake long after you’ve finished the book.

The real tragedy in this case “is not that it occurred, but that it was allowed.” I’m paraphrasing Dragon Age Origins here, but the situation is horrible in the same way, even if the events are not.

It’s obvious from the very beginning that something is seriously wrong in Scarlett Rainsford’s family. We don’t get the details until the end, but it’s very clear that Clive Rainsford is emotionally and physically abusing his entire family in various ways. Not just the two girls, but also his wife, whom he married when she was 16 and he was 31. Annie Rainsford has no thoughts or opinions of her own, and the girls are beaten if they step just a tiny bit outside the lines he has drawn. Yet to the outside world, they present the picture of the perfect middle class white family, and no one takes a look behind the closed door – not even when Juliette attempts suicide.

It’s clear to DCI Smith that Clive and Annie Rainsford knew more about Scarlett’s disappearance than they ever told the police. Back in 2003, Smith was one of the most junior officers involved in the investigation, and even then she noticed something hinky. Now in 2013, she finds the lies and inconsistencies in the old statements, but it isn’t until the end that Scarlett reveals just how much was left out.

Clive Rainsford was a sick man, and you’re not sorry that he finally gets his just desserts. Not surprised either – only sad that Scarlett and Juliette’s closure is going to ruin the rest of their lives. Although they both may find prison an improvement – which says a lot about the family, and none of it good.

The case, and its investigation, are gripping from beginning to end. At first, I found the flashbacks to the events in 2003 distracting from the narrative, but as we get deeper into both what happened to Scarlett and the current investigation, the two stories merge seamlessly together. We need Scarlett’s perspective in order to see the lies and evasions in her parents’ story. What they said, and what they thought, versus what was actually happening, will make you want to scream and wring someone’s neck. Or curl up into a fetal ball and shake.

Scarlett’s case does tie back into the murder and attempted murder that Smith is investigating at the same time as she is covering the Rainsford case, but just not in the way that anyone expects, which is awesome and horrible at the same time.

The author was inspired to write this book after reading Slave Girl by Sarah Forsyth, a true story of a young English girl who was trafficked into Amsterdam from the UK after she answered an ad for child care workers. Scarlett Rainsford’s fictional story, like Sarah Forsyth’s true-life account, sets out to show that trafficking can happen anywhere to anyone, particularly any female one, and that it happens right under our noses. Behind closed doors.

This post is part of a TLC book tour. Click on the logo for more reviews.
***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Under a Silent Moon by Elizabeth Haynes

under a silent moon by elizabeth haynesFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genre: mystery, police-procedural
Series: DCI Louisa Smith #1
Length: 368 pages
Publisher: HarperCollins
Date Released: April 15, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Two women share a grisly fate in the first entry of this exciting new British crime series—a blend of literary suspense and page-turning thriller that introduces the formidable Detective Chief Inspector Louisa Smith—from the New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Haynes, “the most exciting thing to happen to crime fiction in a long time” (Sophie Hannah, author of Kind of Cruel).

In the crisp, early hours of an autumn morning, the police are called to investigate two deaths. The first is a suspected murder at a farm on the outskirts of a small village. A beautiful young woman has been found dead, her cottage drenched with blood. The second is a reported suicide at a nearby quarry. A car with a woman’s body inside has been found at the bottom of the pit.

As DCI Louisa Smith and her team gather evidence over the course of the next six days, they discover a shocking link between the two cases and the two deaths—a bond that sealed these women’s terrible fates one cold night, under a silent moon.

In this compelling new detective series, Elizabeth Haynes interweaves fictional primary source materials—police reports, phone messages, interviews—and multiple character viewpoints to create a sexy, edgy, and compulsively readable tale of murder, mystery, and unsettling suspense.

My Review:

This is the first book I’ve read by Elizabeth Haynes, but based on this outing, I will definitely be looking for her in the future.

I always enjoy a good police procedural, especially British police procedurals–probably because I watch too many BBC mysteries on the “telly”. Under a Silent Moon reminded me particularly of some of those series, as there is a side-character in the book who seems like a younger and less foul-mouthed version of Andy Dalziel in Dalziel and Pascoe. He’s even named Andy, but he doesn’t have Dalziel’s nose for pulling a solution to the crime out of his hat (or his arse) in the nick of time.

The lead detective in this case is Louisa Smith, and it’s her first case as DCI (Detective Chief Inspector). She’s the supervising investigator into a particularly messy murder at a farm. The case is complicated enough by the victim’s life, it seems as if she was in or had broken up a relationship with every adult in the village, married or single. The number of ex-lovers and cheated-on spouses seems to be legion.

But Polly Leuchars isn’t the only dead body in the neighborhood. Barbara Fletcher-Norman committed suicide by driving off a ledge into a rock quarry on the same night that Polly Leuchars was murdered. Two unrelated deaths on the same night in the same small village is a bit much for the long arm of coincidence.

The story is in the evolution of the investigation and the unraveling of the myriad secrets and lies that link the close-knit inhabitants of this small community. The more that the investigation pulls itself together (sometimes because of, and sometimes in spite of the investigators) the faster that relationships fall apart in the village.

The way that the course of the investigation changes and morphs as the team pokes at all the holes in every witness’ story is fascinating. First it seems as if it’s all about sex. Then the tide turns, and it’s all about a cover-up. At the last moment, it turns into something else entirely. But the readers are just as caught up in following the trail of evidence as the police, and are just as surprised at the end.

Escape Rating A: Under a Silent Moon definitely puts the “procedural” in police procedural, but in a way that makes the reader feel as if they are a part of the investigation. The device of showing the reader the police reports as they are being written draws one compellingly into the action as it happens.

Louisa Smith is a sympathetic point-of-view character with a whole bunch of flaws that make it easy to identify with her. She’s smart and capable, but also has realistic self-doubts about leading a team for the first time, especially with the Deputy Chief Constable believing that he is her sponsor and mentor and has boosted her career.

Unfortunately, Louisa’s big flaw is not that she is a workaholic, although she is, but that she looks to her co-workers to serve as her dating pool. It was a problem when she was just a Detective Inspector, but now that she’s a boss, there’s big trouble up ahead. And behind, as one of her former lovers is on her team, and it makes a mess for both of them.

Still, I really liked her as a protagonist, and particularly the way she let her team members be the experts in their respective fields.

The way that the case continued to reveal more and more layers of the town’s secrets, and how that pushed the investigation into different directions kept me picking up the book every spare minute to see what happened next. I truly hope we’ll see more of DCI Louisa Smith and her team!

This post is part of a TLC book tour. Click on the logo for more reviews.
***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.