Lock Every Door by Riley Sager

Lock Every Door by Riley Sager

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge Prompt: 25. A wealthy character

Other Possible Prompts: 22. An unlikely detective, 23. An author with an X, Y, or Z in their name

Every time I doubt Riley Sager he manages to pull it out, somewhere around the middle…Lock Every Door was one of his more popular novels, I believe, and I can see why. It has all the great makings of gothic horror but pulls out all the stops in modern twists and turns.

Left jobless, boyfriend-less, and homeless all in one day, Jules can’t believe her luck when she finds a job posting for an apartment sitter. Despite the weird rules provided by the manager, Jules can expect $1,000 at the end of each week she spends on the twelfth floor of the famous and mysterious Bartholomew apartment building – so she eagerly accepts the job.

While the other tenants living at the Bartholomew provide intrigue enough, Jules manages to befriend one of the other apartment sitters, Ingrid. When Ingrid goes missing, however, far more of the “quirks” she enjoyed about the Bartholomew before are cast in a new light. As she struggles to locate her new neighbor, the “haunting” of the apartments comes to a head.

Really, this book is about the ambience. The Bartholomew is a stunning setting for this gothic horror with a modern vibe. The novel is rich in details about the building and I could absolutely see it in my mind as I read. This is definitely something Sager excels at that I don’t see in many of his novels, but wish I did – I’m a sucker for a good setting in a horror novel (The Return, anyone?).

Like many of Sager’s works (which I will get around to later when I review The House Across the Lake) Lock Every Door starts real heckin’ slow. The first half of every Sager is just setting you up to believe that you know exactly where this is going, that we are on a predictable train ride to the full conclusion. But no. No no. The second half will have your head spinning, and the last twenty pages always damn near knocks your head right off your shoulders. Like I frequently say of Tessa Bailey, I was in doubt, but I have learned better: never doubt. Sager impresses me, and I like his writing style that’s easy to fall into and enjoy.

On a similar note, this book is masterfully crafted. Each and every detail, every offhand remark has a point. Do you ever read a book and wonder if it could’ve been written backwards? The mystery is just too perfect, the hints just too well placed. I think that impressive plotting is part of what made this book such an instant hit, and the reason people have been hooked on Sager for years now.

I liked that each and every character was complex and enjoyable. It is truly quite a cast, and it gives me Murder on the Orient Express vibes for sure. Just really unique characters with their own distinct story and ~vibe~. I loved Ingrid, the other apartment sitter, despite not wanting to. Her happy, bubbly personality is not only charming, but necessary to the story, in order to make Jules drawn to her and concerned by her disappearance. I liked Jules, too, but her character veers toward outgoing where I think I would be more reserved in the same situation. She’s not unlikeable, but for me, she wasn’t totally relatable, either.

All in all, I think it’s pretty clear I’m recommending this book! It wasn’t my favorite of his, hence the four stars, and I think that’s partly because the beginning was so dull in my eyes. I was waiting for things to get interesting, and thought it would happen a lot sooner than it did. However, overall, this is a damn solid mystery thriller, and I loved it!

Have a most excellent weekend, peeps!

The Therapist by B.A. Paris

The Therapist by B.A. Paris

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge Prompt: 46. A job title in the title

Other Possible Prompts: 22. An unlikely detective

This one really managed to give me the creeps. Lately I’ve been feeling like I rate books too highly, so I’m denying this one the extra half a star, but I really did enjoy this. It’s creepy and satisfying, and gives you the answers you’ve been longing for by the end.

Alice has just moved in with her long distance boyfriend, Leo, to an exclusive gated neighborhood referred to as “The Circle”. She’s excited to meet her neighbors, and happy with her move to London, until she discovers the real reason they got their home at such a steal: just one year before, it was the site of a brutal murder. A Nina Maxwell was killed presumably by her husband, Oliver, before he took his own life, wracked by guilt.

Driven by a loose connection to the death of her sister, Alice is determined to clear Oliver’s name. She doesn’t believe that the perfect marriage between two kind people could’ve soured so quickly, and so she launches her own investigation, learning from her neighbors while being haunted by the presence in her home.

You don’t really know how “the therapist” ties into this story until the end, really. So many pieces of this puzzle don’t come together until the final pages, and I love that because even when I’m 80% of the way through the book, I have no idea who the culprit is and I trust NO ONE.

My biggest pro-tip is to not finish this book right before entering a vacant home that’s been taken by the elements, where your current job is to open up the attic and crawl space. I’m back, sitting in my car, instead of that creepy ass home (and I pulled down the attic and ran, to be frank). It’s been quite a Wednesday.

I think my biggest complaint with this book is how little I cared for the characters; Alice’s neighbor Eve is really the only one I felt drawn to in any way. Everyone feels pretty disposable from the start, and I don’t feel that the events or revelations of the book make me any more dedicated to the characters, including Alice. I find Alice quite annoying, actually, and chuckled a bit when I saw a review titled “The Therapist: exactly what its main character needs”. By the end, I think they’re hoping you’ll be biting your nails to see how it plays out, but I was more drawn to the story than the characters. We get plunked right into the thick of things from chapter one, but we know very little about the major players until later on. I feel as though this is one of those British literature quirks, because this isn’t the first time I’ve said as much. I think a thriller gains a bit more from making you worry for our main characters’ survival, so that’s not a point in its favor in my opinion.

I’d heard a lot of good things about B.A. Paris’ books before, so I was pretty excited for the twists and turns of this one, but The Therapist plays the long game I think. It kept me guessing ’til the very end, but I don’t know as if it’s the twist of a lifetime. I guess it depends on how many mysteries and thrillers you tend to read, and what you sense about this cast of characters from the very beginning.

This is not all to say I didn’t enjoy it. My mouth was formed in a permanent gasp while I read this book – in less than 24 hours during a work week, no less. It was quite the rollercoaster ride. And I can also thoroughly appreciate that everything comes together with a neat little bow at the end.

I definitely recommend The Therapist, and I think I’ll be checking out some of her other books to measure this one against before I recommend this to people who have already enjoyed her work. I don’t think this is one of her more popular novels, so I’m curious what I’ve missed thus far.

You’ll also notice I switched some of my prompts around for this one – I think The Therapist fits number 46 a bit better than Weather Girl, though I have to admit I’m surprised I had more than one book to fill this prompt! I thought that one would be a toughie. I think my switching may start happening more often the farther I get into this challenge – which is why I’m glad I kept good track of all the possible prompts for each book. I like to read whatever, wherever the wind takes me – which has worked so far, but maybe not for much longer this year. 🙂

I hope you all have a lovely week, friends!

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge Prompt: 15. A five-syllable title

Other Possible Prompts: 25. A wealthy character

I’m on a thriller kick lately! I’ve actually been knocking out a lot of my boss’ book recommendations, which included The Couple Next Door. I finally got around to things she told me to read months ago… so without further ado, welcome to your March bonus review. 😉

Anne and Marco Conti make a quick decision one evening to leave their sleeping baby home next door while they attend a neighbors’ dinner party, checking on her routinely until they leave at just after one in the morning. When they return, their six-month-old daughter, Cora, is gone.

The call to the police launches an investigation into her kidnapping that begins to unravel a carefully threaded web of lies, twists, and turns that will keep you guessing until the very, very end.

This is another one of those stories where I’m PETRIFIED that just telling you what the book is about is going to ruin the whole thing. Because it’s like a well of crazy, all the way down.

The perspective of this novel alternates back and forth primarily between Anne, Marcus, and Detective Rasbach, the lead detective on the case – with some other characters interspersed. You’d think, being in the head of just about every character, you may know more about where the story is going…but Lapena keeps it well hidden until she’s ready to reveal each individual detail. Every time something new came to light I gasped a little, thinking that must be where the ~wildness~ ended, and it never was.

One thing that annoyed me from the very beginning about the turn of events is that the detective immediately suspects Anne and Marcus of wrongdoing, and carries out his entire investigation as if they are at fault. He narrates that this is usually the case, that the child is likely already dead, that the parents likely have a hand in it…but it just didn’t sit right with me, even until the very end. It didn’t make me dislike the story, though, and it’s a necessary element of the plot – but it is certainly depressing. It just made me think.

I can’t tell you *which* characters I disliked, because it’ll ruin it for you, but I think the moral judgments of this cast of characters is really intriguing. I think it’s one of the strong points of the novel, similar to Diane Chamberlain’s The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes (keep your eyes peeled for that review at the end of April). Like, some of these characters did some dumb stuff, even borderline horrible stuff, but is it enough to make you hate them? Enough to make you want to see them suffer some consequences? It’s kind of an odd book that might have you changing your mind to the very last page on that front, truthfully.

I’ve decided not to try and fit this one into a prompt for the moment, which is why I only listed possible prompt suggestions. I did finish it in 2022…in fact, I finished it yesterday…but I’ve already filled my two prompt suggestions, so I might only go back and fill it in for 48. Redo one of this year’s prompts but with a different genre if I have to. I’m sticking it on the back burner for now!

I definitely recommend The Couple Next Door, though I apparently don’t have a ton to say about the book! I’m trying to think of some other comments I have, but coming up empty handed. I kind of want to read Not a Happy Family now, and might pick it up at the library next week.

Have an awesome week, peeps!