Under a Silent Moon
Elizabeth Haynes quickly established herself as a top-notch suspense author with the publication of three stand-alone books --- INTO THE DARKEST CORNER, DARK TIDE and HUMAN REMAINS --- that earned her a legion of fans. UNDER A SILENT MOON, her latest novel, is a far different work, the first in a series of police procedural mysteries that undoubtedly will significantly increase her readership while retaining those who have been with her from the beginning. It also will shoulder its way onto many “Best of” lists of 2014; it’s as impressive a book, in any genre, as you will read this year.
"UNDER A SILENT MOON is a wonderful surprise. Your reading group will have lots of fun with this one, which leaves just enough characters standing at the end to promise more great things to come with successive volumes. And the ending will leave you breathless."
Haynes has worked for many years as a civilian police analyst, so it is arguably only natural that she eventually would turn to the world of police procedure as fodder for a novel. She does so in UNDER A SILENT MOON, and wonderfully so, introducing a police team working in a rural London suburb. It’s headed up by Louisa Smith, who is tasked with investigating the deaths of two women that occur in close proximity to each other and appear to be related. The first is Polly Leuchars, a beautiful young lady who is found brutally murdered in a cottage on a horse farm. The second is Barbara McGrath, whose death ultimately appears to be the result of a suicide. Polly’s blood is found on Barbara’s person; rumors had spread throughout the local village that Barbara’s husband had been having an affair with Polly, so it is easy to connect the evidentiary dots.
All is not quite as it seems, however, and Smith methodically pulls at this and that inconsistency, discovering that there is much more to both victims, and those surrounding them, than might appear at first blush. There is a dark mystery at the heart of the book --- two of them, in fact --- but the plot is nicely balanced by the characterization that Haynes weaves through the storyline. Each and all of the characters --- both primary and secondary, protagonist and antagonist --- are mesmerizing and memorable for one or more reasons, with professional and personal lives nicely balanced. Then there is the investigation, the resolution of which ultimately rests not so much on science as on technology, on the retrieval of emails and cell phone records, pinging and the like. Oh, and there is a bit of erotica here and there as well --- actually, more than a bit --- incorporated so seamlessly into the storyline that it’s steamy without being distracting or gratuitous.
I can almost guarantee that readers who ordinarily have nothing to do with mysteries will pick up and read --- and highlight and underline --- passages and possibly whole pages of this book. I’m thinking that perhaps it should come with a warning label: “Don’t Try This at Home.” Of course, you might be already.
UNDER A SILENT MOON is a wonderful surprise. Your reading group will have lots of fun with this one, which leaves just enough characters standing at the end to promise more great things to come with successive volumes. And the ending will leave you breathless.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on April 20, 2014