Let me first issue a warning: if you Google this book’s title, click only on the version penned by B. A. Paris (unless you’re in an exploratory mood). In retrospect, I shouldn’t have been surprised that a title like Behind Closed Doors would be shared by a few racier reads. But surprised I was by a few of the results generated by “Behind Closed Doors Book.”
As far as the actual review: this is a tricky one. Generally, I prefer reviewing books I really like. After all, I’m an aspiring novelist myself; I can easily imagine the pain of having years of artistic work criticized. And just because a book’s not for me, doesn’t mean it isn’t an excellent fit for someone else.
But I received an Advanced Readers Copy (ARC) of Behind Closed Doors and feel I owe a review, even if the book was a qualified success for me.
Let’s start with its assets. The plot was well-paced, a swift read that consistently compelled me to keep reading. Curiosity about what came next had me devouring the book at a much faster pace than I anticipated; it kept me awake on a long flight where I fully expected to sleep. Since this kind of suspenseful pacing is perhaps the essential ingredient for a thriller, the book deserves an A+ in this category.
The main character, Grace, is also a win: intelligent, self-sacrificing, and resilient, you really do root for her. I want to keep this review spoiler-free, so I won’t betray details; but suffice it to say, her motivations are noble enough to make you root for her as a hero, rather than pity her as a victim.
There are a few twists, too, that keep the novel from being predictable. And the alternating chapters between Grace’s horrifying present and the past events leading to her current plight are a nice technique.
But several of the book’s elements hit my inner reader wrong. Firstly, I feel that of late, every thriller featuring a prominent female character has received accolades like “this year’s answer to Gone Girl” or “the next Gone Girl.” Closed Doors was no exception.
But such comparisons ring hollow. I know there’s a degree of controversy surrounding Gone Girl: Is it feminist, or anti-feminist? Does it forward a damaging message? Yet whatever your feelings on the novel, this remains: the twist at the novel’s midpoint, the inversion of the expected roles of villain and victim, make the book truly distinct, even shocking upon first read. Closed Doors, just doesn’t shock in an equivocal manner; the characters consistently play out the parts assigned to them, from start to finish.
Secondly, Closed Doors provoked in me a series of “Really?” moments, jarring me from the action. For some readers, the scenes set in Thailand might not strike a false note. But since I’ve both visited Bangkok, and worked within and observed the interior workings of consulates and embassies, some of the plot sequences in Thailand came off as slightly unbelievable.
Additionally, although the antagonist’s motives/goal for his villainy do satisfyingly upend expectations, he seems to employ overly elaborate (and troublesome) methods to achieve them. If psychopaths are willing to secure their desires by any means, caring remorselessly, exclusively about their interests (psychcentral.com), Paris’s psycho seems curiously reluctant to kill those who repeatedly attempt to hinder his plans. (No further details here, lest we enter spoiler territory.)
In short, if you’re looking for a fast-paced suspense with a gratifying end, Behind Closed Doors isn’t a bad choice. But if you’re after realistic crime-centric fiction, I might look elsewhere.
*Received Advanced Readers Copy for the purposes of review