Behind Closed Doors: B.A. Paris
Genre: Psychological thriller
Pages (small paperback): 293
Hogwarts House Recommendation: Ravenclaw
What’s a Hogwarts House Recommendation? I’ve seen many blog entries sort books into Hogwarts Houses, meant to help people find books that are good for them based on what their House is. This is a new feature I will include in every review…not that anyone can’t pick it up! In this case, for example, I feel like Ravenclaws would truly enjoy this book the most because of the cleverness displayed by the characters, and in some cases, the cleverness required.
Jack and Grace are the perfect couple next door. He’s a talented lawyer and a wealthy one at that. She’s a beautiful woman who can cook wonderful meals, which are often display at the dinner parties they throw. The dinner parties, in fact, are almost the only instances that others get to see of Jack and Grace’s ideal life, but it seems to be enough to impress them.
But is it ideal? What really happens when the party is over? Grace barely has a social life and mostly only goes out to lunches with friends. She is never available to talk, nor does she have close friends of her own. That’s because the truth is that Grace is living a nightmare behind the closed doors. And there may not be a way out.
I had doubts about this one, sure. I picked it up because I liked her second novel, The Breakdown, pretty well. But the summary looked to me like your standard domestic abuse novel. Oh yes, and it was also said, like basically everything else, to be the next “Gone Girl.” I can’t imagine that these authors aren’t miffed that bloggers and reviewers constantly make them stand in Gone Girl’s shadow–I certainly would be. Let these books have a chance to develop their own identity.
And wow, was I wrong about everything. This is not your standard domestic abuse story. Related to Gone Girl or not: this is a compelling book.
This book grabbed me from the start–the lull of the dinner party peppered by Grace’s anxiety and carefully planned moves, but why, we don’t know. From them on, chapters alternating between the past and the present show us Grace’s current horror and what happened to lead her there. Physically trapped in a marriage and house she can’t escape, the sense of claustrophobia is overwhelming, especially if you’re me and have a fear of being trapped. You truly feel for Grace. There is simply no way out. Maybe part of the reason for its grabbing me is how it deviates from the traditional format. You already know the bad guy, but the “how,” “why,” and most importantly, the “how do I get out of this situation?” unfold as time goes on, creating a sense of utmost terror. What a refreshing tactic! Although I was able to pick up on some things, it in no way lessened my enjoyment of the story. Something could always go wrong at any second, even when Grace’s path seems clear.
The characters are great too, despite the focus on action. Yes, of course Grace’s father is out of the picture as in almost every book I’ve read in the past two years which is pretty darn bad but thank all that is holy, this trope isn’t expanded on. Millie, however, I loved. Grace’s younger sister has Down’s syndrome and Grace has agreed to care for her. She is sweet but also conniving. Able to figure out what is going on even without Grace being able to tell her, the two form a great team. And then there’s Grace herself. Although seemingly helpless, she is a good thinker and able to get out of situations with her mind and creativity. She isn’t always the smartest person in the room–I saw the red flags from a mile away–but she isn’t stupid and very resourceful, much moreso than I would have been. And she learns from her mistake of rushing into marriage. Side characters play a role, too. You want to hate party guest Esther for being judgmental at first, but she may see something that others do not.
By far the strongest point of the story is the possibility that this could actually happen if one weren’t careful. With all the messages out there about believing women these days, this book drives the point home. I’m not scared by ghosts or clowns; they can’t do anything to me. But in Behind Closed Doors, this is not the case. It would take some planning, but the events here, orchestrated by a super abusive spouse, could absolutely be a thing, and this is perhaps why it’s the scariest book I’ve ever read.
Still, like all books, it’s not perfect. If I had one complaint, it was that Jack’s motivations were incredibly weak. MINOR SPOILER ALERT: he just likes to watch women suffer.
As such, he comes across as a corny bad guy in an action movie or something. On the other hand, though, you kind of have to be one in order to pull of the kinds of things that Jack does here. So I’m not really willing to take points off for that. The point was that he was sadistic enough to create a chilling story, and Paris accomplishes that very well. My other qualm was with the ending–it was very sudden, much like the one in The Breakdown. It was also almost a cliffhanger. You can’t do that in a thriller that you’re not going to write a sequel to. I pay the author to tell me what happens. I think an epilogue would have been nice also. But maybe that’s just me. I like happy endings.
Behind Closed Doors is probably one of the the best thrillers I have ever read…if only there had been an epilogue so I could learn what happened to Millie, and if only it had been longer! It was extremely well-thought out and Paris, though Grace, manages to cover all the bases and have Grace navigate her environment in a believable way. Do not be fooled by the trite summary on the back: it’s a lasting book that will haunt you and leave you with its powerful message: not everything is what it seems.