Monday, February 27, 2017

Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris

Reviewed by Ambrea

“Everyone knows a couple like Jack and Grace.  He has looks and wealth; she has charm and elegance.  He’s a dedicated attorney who has never lost a case; she’s a flawless homemaker and a masterful gardener and cook, and she dotes on her disabled younger sister.  […]  You might not want to like them, but you do,” reads the cover.  Jack and Grace Angel sound like the perfect couple:  beautiful, sophisticated, enchanting, gracious.  It’s hard not to like them with their perfect house, their perfect dinner parties, their perfect marriage—except looks can be deceiving.

Jack isn’t the affable gentleman he claims to be, neither is he the doting husband nor the charming romantic who whisked Grace away to Thailand for their honeymoon; in fact, Grace knows better.  She knows what Jack is like when the shades are pulled and the doors are locked.  She knows what he’s after, like she knows he’ll stop at nothing to get it, even if it means destroying her in the process.  Left with no alternative, Grace knows she has to get out.

In Behind Closed Doors, B.A. Paris conjures a breathlessly thrilling and terrifyingly chilling novel.  I found it purely by accident when I glanced through a stack of newly cataloged books—and I was hooked by the first page.  Honestly, I was probably caught a little earlier than that when I skimmed the jacket cover and discovered an absolute gem of a review on the back from Publishers Weekly, which reads:
“Appearances can be deceiving[.]  Terror is contagious…and impending peril creates a ticking clock that propels this claustrophobic cat-and-mouse tale toward is grisly, gratifying conclusion.”

It made the novel sound slightly scandalous, and more than a little terrifying.  I couldn’t wait to dive in.

The plot is a simple, straightforward affair.  At its core, Behind Closed Doors is a survival story; however, it hinges upon the suspense which the author carefully builds as she peels back the layers of Grace’s story and reveals the monster behind Jack’s angelic façade.  (See what I did there, huh?)  It’s a psychological thriller, and it’s a wonderful book.

Personally, I enjoyed reading Grace’s narrative.  She’s an eloquent narrator who evokes quick emotional responses, because it feels like she could be anyone—a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a coworker you only have the opportunity to talk with at lunch.  Literally, anyone—and it’s so easy to get wrapped up in her story, to feel her gut-wrenching desperation and her dwindling feelings of hope.  She’s a sympathetic character, a victim of terror and abuse, but she’s not helpless.  I liked that Grace can think for herself, that she can plot and plan, and, more to the point, that she poised to rescue herself.

Despite my affection for Grace, I have to say that Behind Closed Doors made me feel a lot of emotions—and very few of them were good.  If it isn’t obvious from the novel summary, Grace’s husband, Jack, is not a good person; in fact, he is, as she characterizes, a monster and I utterly despised him.  Even in the first chapter, in which Grace seems intentionally vague about her relationship with Jack, I had the feeling that all was not well.  There were red flags that made me perk up, that made me wonder, and I couldn’t help think, “Something isn’t right here.”

Well, something definitely isn’t right.

As the story progressed, things went from bad to worse.  Listening to Grace’s story, watching with appalled fascination as her terrible ordeal unfolded, I couldn’t help feeling very strongly that Jack needed to die.  Honestly, Behind Closed Doors made me feel very violent, like abnormally violent.  I couldn’t stand Jack—and it’s all because of an incident with a dog.  I mean, don’t get me wrong, I felt so bad for Grace and her sister, Millie, and the psychological terror they must have endured; however, I was absolutely heartbroken for the dog.

I realize something of this nature had to happen to sell the book, so to speak.  It was just one more way of convincing the reader that Jack is horrible, heartless, depraved and, in a word, evil.  But I just couldn’t handle it.  I can’t stand when animals are hurt or killed in books.  My little heart just can’t take it.  Besides which, I have quickly realized I am not a nice person when something bad happens to a dog.

I wished all manner of terrible things on Jack.  I even had to skip to the end of the book and find out the conclusion, so I could reassure myself that I wasn’t setting myself up for complete and utter devastation.  I don’t want to ruin the ending, so I won’t go into detail, but I will say that the book blurb was right:  Behind Closed Doors has a grisly but oh, so satisfying ending.  Truthfully, I don’t believe I’ve ever been so relieved by the conclusion of a novel.  That final chapter was so very, very gratifying—one might even call it cathartic.

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