Pub. Date: July 18, 2017
Source: e-ARC via publisher (Thank you, St. Martin’s Press!)
Summary: Cass is having a hard time since the night she saw the car in the woods, on the winding rural road, in the middle of a downpour, with the woman sitting inside―the woman who was killed. She’s been trying to put the crime out of her mind; what could she have done, really? It’s a dangerous road to be on in the middle of a storm. Her husband would be furious if he knew she’d broken her promise not to take that shortcut home. And she probably would only have been hurt herself if she’d stopped.
But since then, she’s been forgetting every little thing: where she left the car, if she took her pills, the alarm code, why she ordered a pram when she doesn’t have a baby.
The only thing she can’t forget is that woman, the woman she might have saved, and the terrible nagging guilt.
Or the silent calls she’s receiving, or the feeling that someone’s watching her…
Genre: Psychological Suspense
Behind Closed Doors was not only one of my Top Reads of 2016, it’s one of my favorite books period. It was absolutely horrifying – particularly because it could (and does) so easily happen – and I was unable to look away or get it out of my thoughts. A year later I’m still recommending it. Naturally when I heard about the follow-up I began counting down the days until it was in my hands (and fangirled hard over it in my post about the mystery/suspense novels of 2017 I needed to get my hands on).
Despite promising her husband she won’t take a shortcut through the woods on her way home, Cass does exactly that, knowing all too well how tricky the road can be to navigate during a storm…but it’ll shave a good chunk of time off her trip. Halfway down the road she sees a car pulled off to the side, its lights on. Cass debates stopping, but one too many crime dramas has her convinced this is all a setup, she’ll be robbed, shot, left in a ditch somewhere. Besides, the woman didn’t look up or flag her down as Cass drove by; she obviously already called a tow truck or someone to come to her aid. It isn’t until the following morning that Cass learns the devastating news – the woman had been brutally killed and, worse still, Cass actually knew her.
As the days following the murder turn into weeks, Cass can’t seem to get the woman out of her head. Her guilt slowly gives way to paranoia as she begins receiving mysterious phone calls. When she answers, she doesn’t hear anyone on the other end, but she knows there’s someone there. Things get even worse as Cass starts to forget little, everyday things: where did she put her car keys, what gift had been agreed upon for her friend’s birthday. Being so busy a lunch date with a friend is forgotten seems trivial, but for Cass, it could lead to something bigger. Cass’s mother passed away from complications due to dementia (something Cass has kept from her husband) and as her insignificant mishaps build (a baby stroller arrived that Cass doesn’t remember purchasing – not to mention she and Matthew don’t have any children) she fears she’s headed down the same path.
All of this sounds really thrilling, right? Unfortunately, The Breakdown was a huge letdown. I’m actually a little surprised this novel and Behind Closed Doors were written by the same author. Because of the VERY tiny cast of characters, it’s obvious from the start what’s going on, despite Paris’s weak attempts at tossing in a few red herrings. There were scenes and sentences that were so juvenile I contemplated abandoning the book completely. While I’m glad I didn’t, I can’t say The Breakdown ever really picked up steam.
Early on Cass quits her job as a teacher (the book opens in the summer while Cass is on break) and from there, her days are literally spent either a) asleep after popping prescription meds or b) out shopping to avoid being in the house alone. That’s it. There are a few lunch dates with her bestie thrown in, but apart from that, Cass does nothing. The chapters read more like a series of reactions Cass has to the phantom caller or a neighbor walking by her house. Not once does she think to actually do something about her fears. Instead, she swallows pills and sleeps the day away until Matthew comes home. Even things that would seem to be common sense (like checking her calendar where her lunch dates, appointments, etc have been penciled in) goes right over her head.
The one thing The Breakdown has going for it is that it’s an extremely quick read, largely aided by the fact that the final few chapters seem to be entirely written out in texts. Texts that rehash everything that has happened in the novel to that point. This was unnecessary, aggravating, and a cheap copout to wrap up the book.
For my most anticipated read of the year to turn out to be such a dud is SO upsetting. Behind Closed Doors was a phenomenal read, yet it’s The Breakdown that feels more like a debut with its weak twists, juvenile writing, and an all too predictable plot. While I’m fine with awful characters that have zero redeeming qualities, a lack of common sense is something I absolutely cannot tolerate, though I suppose there wouldn’t be a book had Cass demonstrated some level of intelligence. I’m so disappointed with this one and I’m hoping B.A. Paris will be back to form with her next novel. If you’re looking for a thrilling, edge-of-your-seat ride, The Breakdown is not it.