Behind Closed Doors
You realize after reading just the first few pages of BEHIND CLOSED DOORS that all is not right. Author B. A. Paris imbues her debut novel first with uneasiness, moving from there into anxiety and then out-and-out terror. The narrative --- an initially resigned, first-person account --- is given to us from the heart and mind of Grace, whose storybook marriage to Jack Angel is a major work of fiction, the truth of which is concealed, literally, behind closed doors.
The novel alternates between the past and present, breaking off at just the right time during each to keep the reader racing along. It opens in the present with a dinner party that the cool and confident Jack and the inwardly nervous Grace are hosting. Jack is a good-looking, wealthy attorney who represents abused and battered women. Grace is an attractive lady who is extremely devoted to Millie, her younger sister, who has Down syndrome. There are plans to transition Millie from her assisted care living into the Angel mansion, a prospect that Jack welcomes (possibly a bit too much) and makes Grace nervous, somewhat inexplicably. At first.
"BEHIND CLOSED DOORS is a one-sit read. The plotting is wonderfully simple and straightforward, and the well-delineated characters...could be your neighbors."
Paris performs a neat trick here, setting the hook in the present and reeling the reader into the past. She shows us with a look and a lock what Grace’s life is like behind the façade of the dream home in which she and Jack live, but do not share. It develops that Grace is a prisoner, not just in her home, but in every aspect of her life. In the past, Paris tells us how things reached this state of affairs, from Jack’s manipulative courtship of Grace to the honeymoon from hell in Thailand, where Jack reveals his true colors, and beyond. Just about the time that the reader thinks “But what about…” or “Why doesn’t Grace do…” Paris gives us the answer. As for Jack, he has almost every angle figured. He has totally isolated Grace, controlling literally every move she makes. It isn’t that he’s a control freak, though he most certainly is that; it’s just that he is very driven to get what he really wants. The what and why will chill you.
When you get to the halfway point of the book, you begin to wonder how Grace is going to get out of this. When you reach the two-thirds mark, and you’ve learned what Jack’s master plan is, you question if she will. Paris drops a couple of hints towards possibilities. The major one is that one of two folks, if not fully aware of what Grace is going through, suspects that all is not necessarily angelic in the Angel household. Another is that Grace may have been manipulated into doing many things that she should not have, but she is not without significant resources of her own. Jack’s Skinner box, however, may be too well constructed for Grace, or anyone else, to overcome.
BEHIND CLOSED DOORS is a one-sit read. The plotting is wonderfully simple and straightforward, and the well-delineated characters (with perhaps a few income adjustments) could be your neighbors. Everyone from librarians to book clubs will be talking about this one for months.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on August 12, 2016