Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Elizabeth Haynes - Human Remains

How well do you know your neighbours? Would you notice if they lived or died? Police analyst Annabel wouldn’t describe herself as lonely. Her work keeps her busy and the needs of her ageing mother and her cat are more than enough to fill her time when she’s on her own. But Annabel is shocked when she discovers her neighbour’s decomposing body in the house next door, and appalled to think that no one, including herself, noticed her absence. Back at work she sets out to investigate, despite her police officer colleagues’ lack of interest, and finds data showing that such cases are frighteningly common in her own home town. A chilling thriller and a hymn to all the lonely people, whose individual voices haunt the pages, Elizabeth Haynes’ new novel is a deeply disturbing and powerful thriller that preys on our darkest fears, showing how vulnerable we are when we live alone, and how easily ordinary lives can fall apart when no one is watching.

Comment: Since I've read Into the Darkest Corner, another book by the author, and liked it, I looked at her other titles and this one caught my attention. I was very curious about it and if it would have the same psychological effect as the other one, which was quite the suspense and thriller. In a way this was better in some things but not as much in others, simply different.

This book starts with Annabel, a woman who works in the police station as an analyst and who takes care of her mother, while living a very lonely life too. She isn't the most popular person at work and is slightly overweight which makes her someone overlooked and dismissed.
The story starts when Annabel discovers the decomposing body of her neighbor and she never guessed she was missing, much less dead. After some research, she finds out the number of people found dead at home has increased a lot in the city, much more than in anywhere else. Could something be going on? Are all those people just dead of natural causes? And what about neighbors, family, how can so many people die without someone else giving the alert?

This is a very clever book but then again, the author has proved she has a mind for details, logic and a structured plot.
There are differences to the other book I've read by her. This one I felt was less oppressive, not as suggestive but the villain was a quiet one at it. This book doesn't have a romance interest either, which made it less thrilling in that aspect. I think I could stomach this one better in terms of reading but the theme is surely a lot more twisted.

The way I saw it, there are two main ideas to make us think in this book.
1) depression exists and has an impact on people and
2) getting to know the people around might not be nosiness but care and concern.
The truly incisive issue in the book is an alert to us, because we live our busy lives without much attention to what surrounds us and to our neighbors. In small places maybe that wouldn't happen as easily, but in big cities, anonymity is a way of life but also a problem if psychopaths are around. Because we can't know for sure what someone else is thinking and how can we survive if someone preys on us. The solution isn't to call each neighbor in out street every day, but to keep an eye on people who live alone, be alert in case strange people are in the area...that won't stop a mad person from doing harm, but it will be a step to try to help.

Another issue is depression. This book deals with it, how easy it is to forget those ill people because so many of us - and society itself - won't acknowledge how problematic and dangerous that illness can be. Being depressive isn't a state of being, is an illness that affects you and changes you and makes you believe in wrong things. I haven't read many romance novels with this theme but in this thriller, the author does a great job portraying the extreme side effects of it.

So, basically, this novel has a villain that uses techniques - proved somehow - to convince depressive people they are better dead, we learn this very early in the story. The whys or hows of this are quite the interesting theme but yes, they can have some morbidity involved some readers might think too much.
The we have Annabel, someone with the symptoms of depression as well, someone who fits the pattern and someone who will be key to show us it is possible to overcome that but if we have help, if we have people who care about us, all will be easier. Any burden is always easier if we can trust in someone who will help us. I think this is a good lesson, if not always as easy to practice.

The book is told from Annabel and Colin's POV, heroine and villain. We also have some POVs of the victims, which helps to explain why they got to the point where Colin was able to convince them the end was better than any fighting.
And here's the twist: some of the villain's arguments to why his actions have merit are actually reasonable. This is how a psychopath's mind works, it convinces you that what they do isn't totally wrong. Of course, the point here is, if we do have the ability or possibility to help, then we should do it and not influence people to do something they shouldn't.

With time we learn about how everything is possible, how twisted the villain's mind is...how is it possible that some people can think like that, how can it be possible that some individuals have brains that degenerate like that? This is the truly sick part of all this, that people who look and act normal might be hiding someone as awful and clinical as this villain.
The end is positive for Annabel, but I wished her life would have a stronger purpose, namely with the help of a romance...but it didn't happen. The last chapter is a sad reality, unless dead, a psychopath is always plotting...

I think this is a great book, it gives you food for thought. The police procedures seem realistic, the plot structure too and Annabel's personality fitting today's society that pushes aside anyone away from the so called norm. But among all the problems and challenges indifference puts in out way, there are still beacons of hope and in a way, this book can be one to let us be aware that positivism can exist and help can be there if one needs it.
I'll look forward to read more things by this author.
Grade: 8/10

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