Frightful Friday is a weekly meme in which I feature a particularly scary or chilling book that I’ve read that week.
The featured title this week is Human Remains by Elizabeth Haynes:
- Paperback: 464 pages
- Publisher: Harper Paperbacks (August 20, 2013)
- ISBN-10: 006227676X
- Source: Publisher
Despite the fact she doesn’t have many friends, Annabel would never consider herself to be lonely. Her work as a police analyst and the regular care of her ailing mother keeps her rather busy. One evening, she returns home and notices a pervasive, foul odor. Her cat has returned home, drenched in the same odor. She notices a light on in her neighbor’s home. The couple next door recently parted ways, so when she didn’t see anyone entering the residence in some time she assumed they had moved. Upon entering her neighbor’s home, the smell increases. Annabel assumes the odor is caused by food that hasn’t been thrown own. Instead, she discovers the decomposing body of her neighbor. How could she and her surrounding neighbors have gone so long without noticing something?
Her neighbor’s demise shocks Annabel so greatly that she begins to look into other similar incidents and uncovers a chilling pattern: Over 20 individuals have been found dead, decomposing in their homes as life continues to go on around them. They weren’t missed by anyone, simply lonely individuals who passed away unnoticed. Unfortunately, Annabel’s coworkers show no interest in her findings…that is, until they hit a little close to home. One sick and twisted individual is responsible for coaxing…leading these lonely individuals to their deaths.
Human Remains is a tremendously dark, and sometimes disturbing, glimpse inside the world of individuals so lost and lonely that they become vulnerable to persuasion. What makes this thriller unusual is that they aren’t killed by stabbing or gunfire, but instead coaxed and guided to allow themselves to die of thirst and starvation. The perpetrator, an incredibly disturbing individual wields so much power over them, yet never renders any sort of physical brutality toward them. He is obsessed with and turned on by decay and the decomposition process.
Additionally, Haynes focuses on the fact that so many individuals go on with life, ignoring the well-being of those around them. This includes Annabel herself, unnoticed and ignored until her life is at risk. Grown children ignore their sick and ailing parents, neighbors ignore one another. It isn’t until the deaths become noticeable that they think to check up on their loved ones. Annabel’s persistence, aided by young and dedicated reporter, bring to light the real circumstances involving these deaths.
Due to some of the content, this isn’t a novel that I would recommend to just everyone. There are some pretty graphic scenes, including some pretty graphic scenes of a sexual nature. If you are able to get beyond this, you will be handsomely rewarded with a brilliant, well-plotted thriller. Passages from the deceased that serve as voices of the dead add a chilling element that borders on horror. Having read all of this author’s previous work, Human Remains is by far the darkest. If you are looking for a terrifying psychological thriller, look no further. Highly recommended.