Written by Elizabeth Haynes — After seven years as a police intelligence analyst, Elizabeth Haynes is currently taking a career break. And that’s great news for fans of her books, because it means she can concentrate on writing more novels. Her first, Into the Darkest Corner, won Amazon’s Book of the Year and Rising Star awards two years ago. We picked her as a writer to watch in 2012, and have reviewed her books Human Remains and Revenge of the Tide.
Under a Silent Moon is her fourth novel, and this time she’s used her considerable skills to create a wholly engrossing, totally believable police procedural. The action takes place over six days and the story is told from a variety of perspectives. But what makes this book different is the use of realistic-looking source documents which appear throughout the narrative as the plot thickens. There are witness statements, emails, forensic reports and analysis documents, and charts. You pretty much have access to everything you need to solve the crime alongside the investigators.
Some people enjoy flicking through a book and seeing diagrams, forms and other interesting diversions, though I usually find them distracting. However in this case the media included really do add to the enjoyment of Under a Silent Moon. There are definitely clues to be found if you look hard enough. On the other hand, if you can’t be bothered with armchair sleuthing, then the book can be read just as well without paying too much attention to the extra content.
Under a Silent Moon opens with a copy of a dispatch log created by a 999 call to police. The hysterical caller has found the blood-covered body of Polly Leuchars, who is not moving or breathing. Thus begins a murder investigation, led by DCI Louisa Smith. It’s her first major incident, and if that wasn’t stressful enough, the case is complicated by the fact that the dead girl is employed to run the stables of Nigel Maitland. He is well known to police, who have never been able to prove his connections to organised crime – yet.
Polly’s body was found by Maitland’s wife, Felicity, who now appears more bothered at the inconvenience of having to find another stable girl than by the brutal murder. The grieving falls to the Maitland’s daughter, Flora, who saw Polly as more than just a friend.
The book takes place in the small English village of Morden, and as its rumour mill begins to roll, it soon becomes apparent that Polly was more than just a friend to a wide range of people of both sexes. Who could have wanted her dead? The discovery of a car at the bottom of a nearby quarry seems to hold the answer to that question. It contains the body of Barbara Flecther-Norman, who had the means and the motive to have committed the dirty deed. Case closed? It all seems too neat to Louisa, but are her instincts to be trusted?
In addition to the engrossing murder investigation, Haynes layers her story with side-plots aplenty. For instance, Louisa’s first big case is complicated by having DI Andy Hamilton on her team. The pair have a romantic history, which ended when she discovered her lover was married. He is keen to resume the relationship, but as Louisa pushes him to the sidelines of the investigation she could be making a terrible mistake. Relationships and relations – both family and sexual, play a hugely important part here.
This is a book that will thrill lovers of the police procedural.
CFL Rating: 4 Stars