Wednesday, August 24, 2016

6 Heart Review: Behind Closed Doors by by B.A. Paris

Behind Closed Doors
B.A. Paris

Page Count: 304

Release Date: August 9th, 2016 (hardcover edition)
Publisher: St. Martin's Press (MacMillan)
Source: Complimentary copy provided by publicist in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you, Wunderkind PR!)
Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Everyone knows a couple like Jack and Grace: he has looks and wealth, she has charm and elegance. You'd like to get to know Grace better. But it's difficult, because you realize Jack and Grace are never apart. Some might call this true love.

Picture this: a dinner party at their perfect home, the conversation and wine flowing. They appear to be in their element while entertaining. And Grace's friends are eager to reciprocate with lunch the following week. Grace wants to go, but knows she never will. Her friends call—so why doesn't Grace ever answer the phone? And how can she cook such elaborate meals but remain so slim?

And why are there bars on one of the bedroom windows?

The perfect marriage? Or the perfect lie?
Jack and Grace Angel are the perfect couple, but from a keen eye's perspective, there are little things that are peppered throughout their marriage that raise many red flags, like Grace not even having her own cell phone (or email address), Jack's propensity to accompany Grace everywhere (including up to the door of the ladies' room), and Grace's eerily immaculate and calm exterior.

Sadly, in the book, no one sees this as particularly odd or toxic, which may reflect how domestic abuse manifests in the real world; despite actual cries for help, it may go unnoticed, or not taken seriously.

Behind Closed Doors takes a somber real-world matter and spins it into a hysterical, drama-filled novel that is narrated in alternating timelines: The Past—the first glimpses of Jack's private battery against Grace—and The Present—the buildup of Grace's plan to end it all.

Maybe I'm just desensitized to thrillers having read some very effed-up ones before, but overall I felt this book fell short of my expectations. After all, the back cover says in large red print: "Makes Gone Girl Seem Like a Fairy Tale," so I expected just that: something bigger and bolder and scarier than Gone Girl. Spoiler alert: Behind Closed Doors doesn't really measure up to Gone Girl at all. To me, it reads like a book-version of an over-the-top Lifetime movie. It revolves around an issue that shouldn't be taken lightly, but Grace's first-person narrative is pretty hard to take seriously, and all the "riveting" twists are quite predictable.

Are there parts that are extremely disturbing and sad? Yes. Jack is a venomous character with no chance of redemption at all, and it was hard to swallow some of his terrible actions. However, to me this was another extremely unrealistic point; characters, especially in real life, are rarely one-dimensional and I would have liked to see some conflict within his character, or maybe a dilemma between his thoughts/feelings and actions, but there was none of that. He's the big bad villain in this story, and nothing more. Grace's determination to free herself of this marital prison and plot her revenge against her husband is the almost impossible, excruciating journey readers are taken along on.

But did these disturbing scenes really keep me at the edge of my seat? I think that's the true indication of a good thriller, but unfortunately, Behind Closed Doors didn't do it for me. The so-called "scary" storyline is painfully obvious, and there is no mind-blowing twist like Gone Girl had. Grace's situation is more frustrating than suspenseful. As a reader, I felt bad for her and wanted to help her out of such a helpless situation, but I wasn't necessarily reveling in the psychological abuse.

While British author B.A. Paris's writing style is appropriately falsely cheery, it isn't wonderfully skilled. The book focuses on plain detail with no integral purpose (like paragraphs of what was served for dinner, what Grace is wearing, how long commute takes, etc.), and while the structural choice of jumbling up the past and present chapters is interesting, it can get quite confusing and seemed unnecessary.

Content-wise, Behind Closed Doors is definitely an anxiety attack kind of story: it's more the threat of death and violence that's scary about Jack's abuse, rather than the actual blood and gore itself. It doesn't really fit in the horror genre, so if you're the squeamish type, you'll be able to get through this one. But if you're easily disturbed by exaggerated threats and targeted psychological abuse, you may want to stay away.

Pros


Fast-paced, not difficult to read // Interesting timeline shifts that aren't too confusing // Original, convoluted storyline; props to B.A. Paris for creating the ultimate evil character

Cons


Writing style and narration is elementary, at best.. nothing special // Grace is an irritating character, although I do sympathize with her // There are multiple twists and turns throughout, but most of it, while pretty horrific, is barely shocking // Overall plot is too obvious; you don't have to do much guesswork based off the vague synopsis // All of the characters are flat and underdeveloped; none of them seem realistic or complex (including the main characters, Grace and Jack) // Doesn't really compare to Gone Girl, despite the rave reviews

Verdict


Behind Closed Doors is a lofty attempt at an intense psychological thriller, but reads more like a Lifetime drama about extreme emotional abuse than anything else. Part of my critique stems from the hype surrounding this novel; it isn't at all a bland read, but it's hardly "2016's answer to Gone Girl" (Women's Health), which is exactly what I was anticipating. If it had been marketed as a domestic showpiece rather than a psychological thriller that supposedly trumps Gone Girl (to reiterate: it doesn't), I may have enjoyed it more Americanflag

6 hearts: Decent for a first read, but I'm not going back; this book is decidedly average (whatever that means!) (x)