Review: Elizabeth Haynes’ Briarstone Mysteries

Under a Silent MoonUnder A Silent Moon by Elizabeth Haynes

Harper Collins British Crime Series (1st Briarstone)

Haynes introduces her new series with the exciting Under a Silent Moon, which is a sexually edgy departure from her other work. As she takes us through the intricacies of a nymphomaniac’s lifestyle, she avoids shades of gray debauchery but offers enough detail to make her point and will probably reach new readers who prefer erotic thrillers. Detective Inspector Louisa Smith, who has just been promoted within the Major Crimes department and has to prove her leadership and sleuthing skill. DI Smith and her team meticulously unfold the sordid underbelly of the small village near London when they are called to investigate two murders on the same night and within yards of each other.

In this literary thriller, the settings, dialogue, and plot are beautifully written, which one expects from Haynes. The multiple viewpoints were easy to follow. What was off-putting in this book is the extreme detail of the police reports and messages in a table format, including suspect and witness interviews, which were exhaustive. While I strongly appreciate that Haynes explores new approaches to her work, and I understand what she intended—let the reader to experience what the detectives have to wade through to solve the case—but the tables and extraneous material add nothing to the reader experience. One of the joys of reading mysteries is trying to figure out the whodunits, but stopping to read the detailed format and comprehensive notes took me far out of the story each time I stumbled on one. That said, Haynes protagonist, DI Smith, is an intelligent and likable character, a strong woman determined to find her place in the hierarchy of the major crimes genre. The development of two complex crime plots is brilliantly executed.

Behind Closed DoorsBehind Closed Doors (2nd Briarstone Series) by Elizabeth Haynes

Harper Collins British Crime

Elizabeth Haynes achieves the penultimate in this captivating story of deception and evil. She pairs the horrors of kidnapping, slavery brothels, and familial cruelty with the tenderness, hope, and sibling loyalty of friendship. Once again, she uses the extraordinarily busy format to show the behind-the-scenes of detailed police work, and once again, an abbreviated format to relay the information would make for a smoother read. But that aside, the plot is absorbing and frightening, a warning to all women about the cruel ways that women are still exploited. The book tells the story from multiple points of view in character-dedicated chapters, and it works with each narrator giving their unique perspective, perspectives, which ultimately create an intricate web of lies, deceit, and pain in a well-executed plot.

In this police procedural, the intrepid and often frustrated Detective Inspector Louisa Smith is fortunate to have a “do-over” when the missing fifteen-year-old Scarlett reappears ten years later. The very naïve Scarlett was on a family vacation in Greece when she vanished. When DI Smith flew to Greece to investigate, she ran into one dead end after another with the Greek police. Shockingly, the family thwarted her efforts to find Scarlett at the time, and they do it again ten years later. Presumed dead, the case landed in the cold case files, but for DI Smith, the missing Scarlett lay heavy on her heart and mind. Police investigating another case found Scarlett working in a brothel in Briarstone. DI Smith once again faces the bizarre behavior of Scarlett’s family, including her emotionally fragile sister, Juliette and tries to untwist some very tight vines that bind the odd family and the international cartel that controls the slave trade.

Judging from Haynes clever ending, Scarlett may emerge in book three of this exciting series, but I hope the cumbersome procedural details will not.

Reviews provided by Mahala Church for her column Barefoot Book Reviews in the July 2015 issue of The Book Breeze.

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