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Behind Closed Doors
Elizabeth Haynes

Harper Collins
2015 / ISBN

Reviewed by Elise Cooper


Behind Closed Doors, by Elizabeth Haynes, brings back the Major Crime detective team headed by DCI Louisa Smith. As in all of Haynes' books, she explores hard-hitting themes where the main character tries to gain control over her life. This police procedural deals with the subject of human trafficking, as the author looks at the dark side of humanity.

The story starts with the abduction of fifteen-year-old Scarlett Rainsford while she is on vacation with her parents and sister on the Greek island of Rhodes. Unlike characters in Haynes' previous books, Scarlett is not perceived as a sympathetic figure from the very beginning of the novel, mostly because she is seen as a teenager who pushes the boundaries set up by her parents. However, as the story progresses, so does the readers' empathy for this main character. This is due to Haynes' ability to write in a very intense way the level of horrific violence Scarlett was made to go through emotionally and physically. The story alternates between then and now when Louisa, a rookie detective, became involved in the 2003 case. In present day, 2013, after Scarlett is found alive in a police raid, the detective's first priority is unraveling what happened to Scarlett.

Louisa is a dedicated officer, a workaholic who is top-notch in her professional career, but is unable to handle a personal relationship. She does not have an on/off switch to balance the two parts of her life. Her romantic interest, Jason, is a nurturing and supportive companion who attempts to have Louisa break down her barrier. Another character who returns is detective Sam Hollands, whose professional life is explored. This includes answering: How far should someone go to help? And what are the limitations they must place upon themselves?

The emphasis on these police procedurals is that the perpetrator can only be found and a conviction secured with skillful teamwork. There is no crusading detective who is able to solve the case on their own. As with the military, the team becomes more of a secondary family, where members rely on one another for protection -- a very intense trust based relationship.

As with the previous book, intelligence reports and witness statements are embedded into the story. This adds to the realism of the police's actual duties. Anyone who might find it a distraction can skip them without losing anything in regard to the storyline.

The author gave a shout out to a book she read, Bought & Sold, by Megan Stephens, which influenced the plot. "The parallels between Scarlett's fictional story and Megan's true one have once again given me cause to stop and think about what I'm doing here, writing books which, let's face it, are for entertainment purposes, about horrors that for many people are very real. Both are stories of how teenagers were trafficked into the sex industry and spent years as prostitutes before finally escaping. My intention in writing stories like this is to challenge people who may otherwise not think about things that are going on right now, not just in far away parts of the world but right here, in prosperous modern European and American cities; places that we think of as safe, where women experience equality, freedom and protection from the legal system. My intention with telling Scarlett's story is to show the sadistic violence she endured but also that this subject is so easily ignored."

Haynes gave a heads up about her next couple of books. The first is a stand-alone involving Sarah, a working mom who lives in the countryside of England. She is alone since her children are in college and her husband has died. Just as moms with empty-nest syndrome, she has a disruption of her lifestyle. The author describes the book as a psychological thriller, as Sarah attempts to remake her life and search for her identity while suffering an immense trauma.

Her other book is a third in the police procedural series. As Jason and "Lou" become more involved, he falls under suspicion in a murder case. Because of the conflict of interest, Lou is removed and Sam takes over Major Crimes. Haynes is thinking of exploring what happens if a strong woman whose life centers on work finds herself unexpectantly pregnant. In addition, she is thinking of bringing her beloved characters, Cathy and Scarlett, back in cameo roles. Fans should hope that Harper resigns her to a new contract because both books appear to be a must read.

Each novel of Haynes covers the difficulties a victim has in bringing the perpetrators to justice and is a must read. Mainstays of all of her novels, including the latest, Behind Closed Doors, are intense, emotional, and harrowing plots.

Reviewed 2015