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Saturday, 1 October 2016

‘Never Alone’ by Elizabeth Haynes

Published by Myriad Editions,
6 October 2016.
ISBN: 978-1-908434-96-8 (PB)

A few pages into this psychological chiller, the carefully judged style and structure were making me think, uh oh, literary aspirations. And though I’d never subscribe to the theory that genre fiction and high quality writing are mutually exclusive (perish the thought!), I think I’d prefer that quality to be worn lightly rather than blazoned on every other page. I needn’t have worried; my concerns soon melted away as it became clear that Elizabeth Haynes’s priority here, as in her earlier novels, was quite simply creating a gripping story, which both style and structure were there to serve – which they did, and very effectively.

When a female character lives alone in a remote moorland farmhouse, you kind of know from the outset that there’s trouble ahead. And when an old friend – male, of course – turns up on Facebook out of the blue, looking for somewhere to live and being distinctly cagey about what he’s been doing for the past couple of decades, it clearly isn’t going to end well. Especially when there’s edgy history between them, and neither is being exactly open and honest with the other. But if this sounds like the kind of cliché that turns up over and over in psychological thrillers, don’t be taken in. Elizabeth Haynes has thrown enough unlikely twists into the mix to keep you on the edge of your seat right to the end.

Sarah is forty-something, widowed and broke; her husband Jim’s sudden death opened up a Pandora’s box of debts and secrets, and new aspects of the fallout are still ambushing her more than three years later when Aiden, once Jim’s best friend, arrives to rent the cottage she owns. The rent eases her financial problems, but his presence opens up a whole other can of worms. What does Sarah’s close friend Sophie know about him, but isn’t telling? What is the nature of Aiden’s business, about which he is so mysterious? And what will they do about the burning sexual attraction which has dogged them since student days and still smoulders?

And then there’s Will, the friend of Sarah’s estranged son Louis, who keeps turning up unannounced; he too has secrets, it would seem.

In Never Alone, Elizabeth Haynes shows herself to be a mistress of suspense as well as a writer of considerable class. She lays down a priceless thread of misdirection right at the start, and goes on tantalizing the reader almost to the end. And she’s a dab hand at the slow-build, nerve-jangling climax, which here spans over a hundred pages, with no loss of tension.

Most people’s lives don’t lend themselves to reading a book at a single sitting, but with this one you’ll want to. I almost did.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Elizabeth Haynes is a police intelligence analyst. She started writing fiction in 2006 thanks to the annual challenge of National Novel Writing Month (Nanowrimo) and the encouragement of the creative writing courses at West Dean College. She lives in a village near Maidstone, Kent, with her husband and son.

Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

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