It’s very seldom that I bother to finish a book that I don’t think is any good. I’ve never been a believer in persevering with things you don’t enjoy and I’m not clear why people take an attitude towards books that they wouldn’t take towards a meal or a movie. For example I’ve never known anyone start a TV show and insist on watching every episode thereafter simply because they watched the first one. What makes books any different? It’s therefore a very rare occurrence to find myself writing about a book that I didn’t enjoy on some meaningful level and yet, here I am, struggling with Behind Closed Doors, by B.A. Paris.
Over the last couple of years I have really diversified my reading tastes by reading an increasing number of crime or psychological thrillers. Some have been outstanding, but almost all of them have been riveting. Behind Closed Doors was gripping, but only because every single step of the way I thought to myself; surely this is going to get better? Only it didn’t.
Clunky. It’s the only word I can think of that conveys the flow of this novel. Paris came up with an excellent premise, namely that things that seem to be too good to be true normally are, particularly when it comes to a marriage. Jack and Grace’s marriage is, of course, absolutely perfect from the outside, only blighted by the absence of a child of their own. Devoted to each other and to Grace’s 18 year old sister Millie, who has Downs Syndrome, the couple eagerly await the day that Grace will come live with them in their perfect home, with a perfect garden, in a perfect village. Of course the perfection isn’t real and their marriage hides some very dark secrets.
So, here’s the problem. Jack and Grace are written in the same way in the same voice and the darkness that Jack possesses is never really given freedom to run through the pages of this novel. Yes, Grace is our main protagonist, but to feel the threat of Jack we need him to be liberated from the page in a way that he simply is not. It’s all so frightfully British, when it really doesn’t need to be. Grace comes across as drippy and lacklustre, whilst Jack is all talk and no real conviction, so at the end of the day you don’t ever care enough about Grace or Millie for the story to have any real clout. The idea of the novel isn’t particularly original but it is clever and I did wonder what a writer like Carol Kepnes could have done with such a plot? I guess we’ll never know.