Under a Silent Moon by Elizabeth Haynes

under a silent moonA very ‘procedural’ police procedural…

😀 😀 😀 😀

A young woman is found brutally murdered in her cottage, and her female neighbour is later found dead at the bottom of the local quarry, having apparently driven her car over the edge. The coincidence of two deaths happening at the same time in a small village lead the police to think they may be linked, so newly promoted Louisa Smith finds her first case as DCI leading the Major Crime team head is to investigate both. She soon discovers that the murder victim Polly has been the cause of jealousy in more than one relationship around the village, and that she also had links to local gangster Nigel Maitland, on whom the police have never been able to get enough evidence to charge with anything…

This is probably the most ‘procedural’ police procedural I’ve read. Haynes, who apparently was a police intelligence analyst for several years in real life, gives a very detailed and convincing picture of how a police investigation works. She includes copies of reports, departmental e-mails and other case documents as a method of providing a feeling of verisimilitude to her story. On the whole this works well – Haynes keeps it down to a level where it remains interesting. However, she also includes fairly in-depth descriptions of team meetings and briefings, and while these make the investigation feel very realistic they also slow the plot down a little too much. The picture that most investigations are probably 90% routine tedium is, I’m sure, more accurate than the usual action-fest, but perhaps the book veers a little too much towards authenticity at the expense of entertainment on occasion.

Elizabeth Haynes Photo © Ryan Cox
Elizabeth Haynes
Photo © Ryan Cox

The plot is complex and interesting, if a bit patchy at times – the obvious gets overlooked or we revert back to something that has already been considered earlier and dismissed. There are a couple of fairly lengthy episodes of S&M sex but, while the detail is considerably more graphic than necessary, they are integral to the plot. Some of the characterisation is excellent, particularly of the police officers, while in other cases it can be a bit superficial and less credible, and occasionally Haynes changes a character’s personality midway through to fit in with a twist in the plot. DCI Smith herself is an appealing detective – ambitious and hard-working and without the usual angst issues. She has a fairly strong moral code which she tries hard to live up to and is a conscientious boss, loyal to her colleagues.

Overall, I found this a good read – not perfect, but with some good writing and original touches that lifted it well above average. I don’t know whether Haynes intends to make this into a series, but I’d be happy to meet Louisa Smith and her colleagues again. Recommended.

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Little, Brown Book Group UK.

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35 thoughts on “Under a Silent Moon by Elizabeth Haynes

  1. Your review reminds me of a British TV series from a couple of decades ago – Prime Suspect. They are good stories, but the details and length of the stories are, in my opinion overdone. It is disappointing when a story shows such potential but gets bogged down in the process.

    • Yes, I loved the first Prime Suspect but as the series went on it got completely bogged down in detail – and in the angst-ridden maverick drunken detective saga. I’ve been reading a few shorter books this last week, and honestly they miss nothing by omitting tons of unnecessary detail. However, overall this one was a good read.

        • 956 pages?! Goodness! What is it with authors and brick-size books these days? I can’t take any more of them for a while – I seem to have been bogged down in huge books all this year…

          • It was published in 1987 – if I recall correctly. I don’t know. I totally “get” Victorian novels. No one had anything else to do but read long books. But now? *shrug*

            • Oh well, if I’ve managed to miss it for 30 years, I can probably go on without it for another few months! 😉

              I know, plus the Victorians were often pubished in installments rather than people being expected to read them all at one time.

            • Ah, yes. That had slipped my mind. I recall reading about Dickens and his serial stories. Maybe we should reinvent that sort of thing for books that are the size of a large whale.

      • Another one here with problems over Prime Suspect. I bought the box set but gave up halfway through for exactly the reasons you mention.

        • Yes, I stopped watching the series around no. 4, I think. But I still re-watch the first one occasionally if it shows up on one of the re-run channels – that really was a great piece of TV with a fantastic cast.

  2. FictionFan – It sounds as though there’s a real ring of authenticity about the ‘police’ aspect of this one and I always respect that. Glad you thought this was a good read even with the less credible aspects of the plot.

  3. Well, it sounds like a vicious one in parts, for sure. It took this professor some time to figure out what DCI is, but I’ve got it now. It’s an interest. I’d like a title like that.

  4. I have always liked procedurals, going back as far as Gideon, so I may give this one a go – sometime this century, with luck.

    • It’ll be interesting to see how it develops, if she turns it into a series. Given that the first in any series tends to be the weakest and that this one was pretty good, then I’m hopeful…

  5. I have to confess that I’ve out off reviewing this as I had mixed feelings about it. I think Haynes strengths in her previous books have been her ability to create tension and I wasn’t sure that the format of the police procedural worked as well as a psychological thriller does. I believe that there is a series planned so it will be interesting to see where it goes from here.

    • I’m coming at it from a slightly different angle since I wasn’t as enthusiastic about Into the Darkest Corner as many people were – that being the only other one I’ve read. I thought it was good but not great. I actually preferred her writing within the format of the procedural, though I thought she allowed it to get too detailed at points.

      Yes, it will be interesting – often the first in any series is the weakest, so since this one was already pretty good, that’s a hopeful sign…

  6. Another great review and one I don’t need to add to the TBR as I’ve read it 😉 I enjoyed this one precisely because of the analytical details, mainly because I love data (another of my odd interests) but I did wonder how much it would get in the way of the story for normal readers. I will definitely be reading the next in the series 🙂

    • Yes, I thought you’d already read this one,,,I’ve been stalking you bookwise lately, it seems. 😉 I thought she stayed just within the limits – much more and it would really have begun to annoy me I think, but I’ll definitely be looking out for the next one too. I liked her writing style better as a police procedural than I did in Into the Darkest Corner in fact.

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