Pub. Date: June 19, 2018
Source: ARC via publisher (Thank you, St. Martin’s Press!)
Summary: Finn and Layla are young, in love, and on vacation. They’re driving along the highway when Finn decides to stop at a service station to use the restroom. He hops out of the car, locks the doors behind him, and goes inside. When he returns Layla is gone—never to be seen again. That is the story Finn told to the police. But it is not the whole story.
Ten years later Finn is engaged to Layla’s sister, Ellen. Their shared grief over what happened to Layla drew them close and now they intend to remain together. Still, there’s something about Ellen that Finn has never fully understood. His heart wants to believe that she is the one for him…even though a sixth sense tells him not to trust her.
Then, not long before he and Ellen are to be married, Finn gets a phone call. Someone from his past has seen Layla—hiding in plain sight. There are other odd occurrences: Long-lost items from Layla’s past that keep turning up around Finn and Ellen’s house. Emails from strangers who seem to know too much. Secret messages, clues, warnings. If Layla is alive—and on Finn’s trail—what does she want? And how much does she know?
Genre: Domestic Thriller
Paris’s 2016 debut, Behind Closed Doors, was one of my top reads of the year and still remains one of my go-to recommendations. Her follow-up, last year’s The Breakdown, unfortunately didn’t hold up to my expectations and it’s sloppy, predictable plot made the book one of the year’s biggest disappointments. Still, I know Paris has wicked talent and wasn’t yet ready to write her off when a copy of her latest appeared at my door.
Bring Me Back features one of my favorite storytelling methods: the before and after, the now and then. Twelve years ago, Finn and Layla were on holiday in France when Layla disappeared one night. Though a search was launched, nothing ever turned up and, devastated, Finn went back home to London to carry on with his life. Now engaged to Ellen – Layla’s sister, their shared grief having brought them together – the two live a quiet, if unremarkable, life with their dog in a small village. When mementos of the past begin showing up (matryoshka dolls, something of Layla’s past only Finn and Ellen knew about), the two can’t help but wonder if Layla is back. Where has she been all these years? Why return now? And what does she want?
Bring Me Back is tiny. My review copy is 223 pages and I honestly thought half the book was missing. No, turns out this is just an incredibly short aka blindingly fast read. The book doesn’t wait around before letting the reader know Finn isn’t all that he seems; in the opening pages Finn’s police statement from the night Layla disappeared is presented. At the end, Finn admits he held back some of the truth, so right from the start it’s clear there’s much more to his story than he’s letting on. From there the book bounces around, traveling back to the past when Layla first came into Finn’s life and the present day, ultimately giving way to Layla’s own story.
Finn’s chapters became an endless loop of finding a doll, hiding the doll from Ellen, and avoiding going to the police, particularly once he began receiving odd e-mails (from Layla?). As the possibility of Layla’s return becomes more and more concrete, it’s clear Finn is struggling: does he still love Layla? Did he ever love Ellen? If Layla truly is alive and well and wants to be back in Finn’s life, how would he react? Kick Ellen to the curb to rekindle a decade-old romance with her sister? Finn was a garbage human – not unlike another Finn – and I couldn’t look away.
As the book draws to a close and the Big Reveal is announced, Bring Me Back become so over-the-top and bonkers in an absurd, totally unbelievable way. As much as I disliked Finn, I still felt he was aware/intelligent enough to have been able to see what had happened. I won’t give anything away, but I simply couldn’t see how no one figured it out. Especially Finn.
Despite the disappointing-slash-ridiculous reveal, Bring Me Back kept me entertained the entire (albeit incredibly short) time. I’m still totally biased when it comes to Paris’s first novel and, as yet, neither of her follow up releases have come close to being as great as Behind Closed Doors. Still, this one was riveting and I truly didn’t want to put it down, regardless of the wacky, cartoon villain-esque reveal. Someone who doesn’t read nearly as many thrillers as I do might be a bit more inclined to be shocked by the ending, but I still enjoyed the time I spent reading this one and look forward to whatever B.A. Paris does next.