14 September 2013

Review: Human Remains by Elizabeth Haynes

Human Remains by Elizabeth Haynes

Published: 20 August 2013 by Harper

Pages: 416 (paperback)

Genre/s: Psychological, Thriller, Crime

Source: Publisher for review


Human Remains is a deeply disturbing and powerful psychological thriller that will have you checking the locks on your doors and windows.

When Annabel, a police analyst, discovers her neighbour’s decomposing body in the house next door, she’s appalled to think that no one, including herself, noticed that anything was wrong.

Back at work, she feels compelled to investigate, despite her colleagues' lack of interest, and finds data showing that such cases are common – too common – in her home town. As she’s drawn deeper into the mystery and becomes convinced she’s on the trail of a killer, she also must face her own demons and her own mortality. Would anyone notice if she just disappeared?

My Thoughts

After reading Haynes' Into the Darkest Corner, I was eager to read Human Remains.  Into the Darkest Corner was one of those books that I would have called in sick for, and I literally couldn't put it down - even when walking.  

However, I wasn't as sucked into Human Remains as I was with Into the Darkest Corner, and I think it was a combination of several factors that stopped it from being an amazing book for me.  

The idea of the plot was really intriguing - a serial killer who doesn't actually kill his victims isn't really something that comes along that often, and I was interested to see how someone with a police background such as Haynes would tackle these ethical and moral issues.  And for the most part it was an interesting storyline, but there were a few things that just didn't work for me.  Firstly, I didn't mind Annabel as a main character, but I didn't particularly like her all that much either.  I'm not sure if this was intentional or not, but the storyline pretty much determines that as a character she can't be particularly engaging.  She also has a weird 'relationship' with someone that she meets during the course of the book, and although it didn't necessarily need to be a relationship, it just felt a bit mismatched.

Secondly, I didn't really feel that there was a lot of tension, except perhaps for the last few chapters.  To me it was more like waiting for something to happen for over 300 pages and then having all the excitement squeezed into the final chapters, which made the pacing unbalanced.

However, despite those issues, the premise is kinda scary - that you can be so isolated from everyone that no one would notice for weeks or months that you have died, and that there are so many fragile and easily influenced people isn't a big stretch of the imagination.

There are also the heavy ethical questions surrounding the moral responsibilities of reporting a death, or a missing person and where, as a society, we draw the lines on what is acceptable and what is actually a crime.   These ideas could have been explored more in Human Remains and that probably would have had me a little bit more interested in what was happening to Annabel as well, however it felt like Haynes missed this opportunity in the most part.

In the end, this is a book that I'd still recommend, particularly to readers who like a unique story line, but I was quite disappointed by the lack of tension and the fact that the main character just didn't click with me.


  1. I hate when I can't form some kind of connection with a main character, it can be such a big let down especially if the book is by an author I've enjoyed reading before. At least the overall story was a good one. Great review Kat!
    - Kimberly @ Turning the Pages

  2. Great review!
    I think I'll give both books by this author a chance when I need a change of pace for my reading next!

  3. A Serial Killer who doesn't kill his victims sort of sounds like Saw to me. Definitely sounds like an interesting enough plot although lack of connection with the main character could definitely bring down the book. I'll have to just chuck this title on my watch for list that way if I ever come across it on sale I can pick it up.



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