Annabel, a police analyst, is shocked when she discovers her neighbor’s decomposing body in the house next door. And she’s appalled to think that no one noticed her absence.
Back at work, she sets out on her own to investigate, and finds that such cases are frighteningly common in her hometown.
After reading Elizabeth Haynes' wonderful debut novel 'Into the Darkest Corner', I read 'Human Remains', her third novel. Whilst this book cannot be compared to her first one, I found it quite tough to read and it was a real struggle for me to get through to the end. I'm not saying that it's a bad novel because obviously Ms.Haynes did a lot of research to write it. It's probably because of the central themes of the book which are lonliness and body decomposition. This is in fact quite a disturbing, dark novel.
'Human Remains' raises certain questions such as: How much do we know our neighbours? Do we look onto and care about neighbours who live alone, especially elderly people?
We meet Annabel Hayer, a police analyst who lives alone with her cat. One night, smelling a foul smell goes to investigate her neighbour's house which she thought was empty and discovers a decomposed body inside. Through further research at work she realises that the number of lonely people found decomposed long after they have died in their own homes in that county has increased remarkably from the last year. Not being considered as suspicious deaths, since no evidence is ever found, the police is not interested to investigate such cases. Annabel is however determined to dig further.
We also meet Colin Friedland, or 'Creepy Colin' a weird, highly intelligent man who has no real friends. He also lives alone and studies a lot. As the book chapters progress, Colin's sick mind and doings are gradually exposed. I ended up hating Colin and I began to dread reading his chapters. At some points Colin interacts directly with the reader by asking specific questions. I think that this was a brilliant, original concept brought about by Ms.Haynes because it brings the reader even closer to the character.
The various victims found also interact with us throughout the book. In fact each one recounts his/her lives so that we may understand better why they had ended up all alone in their homes.
Unfortunately I found this book to be quite boring at times as we are given chunks of scientific explanations related to decomposition, which though highly interesting, I found rather off putting. However on the whole, Ms Haynes' excellent and evocative narration just makes the pages flow by and that is the main reason why I didn't rate it less than 4 stars.