Okay, okay, I’m starting to love B.A. Paris. I have been systematically putting all these women-in-peril, men-are-the worst, torture-is-fine stories into the same category loosely titles Not Gone Girl But Trying. Last year I reviewed Paris’ book Behind Closed Doors on the site and I gave it a B- and noted that the ending changed my view of it. Now I understand more of her style and it is really working for me. With her new book, The Breakdown, I have become a convert and now I guess I’m all in on B.A. Paris. It’s not that we have a wholly original idea – a woman is going crazy or is she being gaslighted – and it’s not that we have a wholly new mystery – the formula does not stray too far to the left of Agatha Christie; but here we have a fresh and interesting way of telling a story that goes off in an unexpected direction in a really fun way.
Our heroine turned victim here is Cass (Plucky? Check. British? Check), a newly married schoolteacher with a genetic memory problem. As we open the story it is a dark and stormy night (and I am HERE FOR IT) and Cass is driving home late and she decides to take an ill advised shortcut through the creepy-assed woods (as one does) where she sees a woman strangely just sitting in her car. She hesitates and contemplates asking if the woman needs anything, but ultimately she just keeps going, wanting to just be home. Naturally, the woman is murdered horribly and Cass goes down a spiral of guilt and shame about what might have been.
Over the next few weeks all hell breaks loose, convincing Cass that she is either crazy or being stalked by the woman’s killer who must have seen her that night. All kinds of terrifying things occur as we take a sometimes slow, sometimes breakneck lurch to the conclusion. There is no profound reason that I enjoyed this book so far – very little ground has been broken here. But what I think Paris does extremely well is that (so far in these two books) she lets her character figure out the truth and do something about the ending. She gives power back to the tortured in more than just a formulaic way, and it is fun to read.
The story may not be new here, but the execution is admirable. The buildup is genuine and the pace is reckless and the characters are well defined. The Breakdown is an impressive and exciting way to spend a few days.
The Breakdown – Grade B+