Review: Human Remains by Elizabeth Haynes

Title: Human Remains

Author: Elizabeth Haynes

Published: Harper August 2013

Status: Read on August 17, 2013 {Courtesy the publisher/Edelweiss}

My Thoughts:

Human Remains is is a disturbing tale raising questions about social alienation in modern society.

When civilian police analyst Annabel discovers the decomposing corpse of her neighbor she is distressed that no-one, including herself, had investigated the woman’s absence. Curious, Annabel delves into the police files and makes a startling discovery, in her home town there has been 24 bodies decomposing bodies discovered in their homes in the past nine months – considerably more than recorded in previous years.
Annabel is concerned. but with no evidence of violence, her supervisor dismisses it as an anomaly until a phone call forces an investigation, revealing a man who is either an angel of mercy, or an agent of death.

The narrative is told from the perspectives of Annabel and the antagonist, Colin, interspersed with the stories of the dead.

Annabel is a near middle aged, single woman who lives alone, except for an unfriendly cat. Her only regular social contact is with her frail and demanding mother and her colleagues, who seem uninterested in befriending her. The discovery of her neighbour in part speaks to her own fear of dying unnoticed, a fear that is exacerbated when her mother dies. With the police uninterested in the string of deaths it is left to Annabel and local journalist Sam Everett to reveal their significance.
**SPOILER**I’m not sure how I feel about Annabel becoming a victim of Colin. The situation felt forced despite her fitting the profile. Had it been a relative/friend/colleague or even acquaintance who had the near miss I think I would have found the plot more credible.**END SPOILER**

Colin is a sociopath, whose mild mannered, nondescript persona hides his fascination with death and decomposition. Using the principles of NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) learnt at evening classes, he discovers an ability to manipulate emotionally vulnerable people. It is a talent he claims facilitates his victims to choose their life’s end without fear and pain but really the process meets his sexual needs. Colin is a disturbing character, not only because of his fetish for decomposing flesh but also his ability to rationalise what he does. But with no redeeming features, he is ‘other’ and therefore it is easy to keep him at a distance.

While there is a sense of psychological uneasiness that permeates the novel I did feel Human Remains lacked sustained tension. The pace is somewhat uneven and I thought the story sometimes felt contrived.
The themes are fascinating though with its social commentary regarding mental illness, suicide vs euthanasia, social marginalisation and community responsibility.

Human Remains is a dark and, at times, grim read and I think it would be remiss of me to not point out that its explicit elements may be too much for some readers. I think the overall concept of the novel is original and interesting, I just wasn’t quite satisfied with the execution. Still, I would recommend Human Remains for its psychological insights.

Available to Purchase

HarperCollinsUS I AmazonUS I AmazonUK I BookDepository

UK/AUS Cover

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. notesoflifeuk
    Aug 22, 2013 @ 01:05:54

    Great review! I might just have to give this one a go… I think!



  2. cleopatralovesbooks
    Aug 22, 2013 @ 06:40:03

    I really liked this one but I do agree with your point about the friendship between Annabel and Colin



  3. jenniferbielman
    Aug 22, 2013 @ 20:11:20

    Oh wow, this sounds so disturbing but interesting. Great review.



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