Title: Behind Closed Doors
Author: B. A. Paris
Publisher: HQ (11 February 2016)
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Price: Rs. 580 on Amazon.
This was a Kindle recommended book and since the blurb looked pretty interesting, I picked it up. This is the debut novel of the author and it is expected to be on the lines of The Girl On The Train. With absolutely no expectations, I began reading and was done with it in a couple of days.
Jack and Grace Angel are the perfect married couple. Jack has the looks and the wealth, while Grace is all about perfection, charm and elegance. No matter what, you cannot not like them. They throw the perfect lunch and dinners for their friends in their beautiful house. Jack, the handsome lawyer who fights for battered wives and saves them from the clutches of their evil husbands. Grace, who quit her job to become the perfect homemaker and the guardian to her younger sister Millie, who suffers from down syndrome. Millie is currently away at an institution, but would come to live with Jack and Grace after her eighteenth birthday. Grace is a the kind of woman one would want to befriend immediately. But still you can't. Grace is never without Jack. It would seem that they are so much in love that they are always joined at the hip. Grace doesn't even step out for a coffee or a meal without her husband. Nor does she put on any weight inspite of all the elaborate meals that she cooks. She must have all the time to work out. Oh yes, this is the perfect marriage. Or so it seems.
Grace meets Jack for the first time in a park when she's out with Millie. It is love at first sight for him and within six months of dating, Jack proposes. Grace is intrigued at first as to what the uber charming Jack sees in the plain looking her. But it is his love for Millie that seals the deal for her. He treats Millie like his own sister and takes very good care of her. So much that he even designs a yellow room for her in the house they are to live after being married so that Millie can join them once she's eighteen. Dreaming of a perfect life, Grace prepares for her wedding. On the big day, Millie falls from the stairs and breaks her leg. She is hospitalized but Jack and Grace still go ahead with their wedding. Immediately after their wedding, they leave to Thailand for their honeymoon. While Grace would like to stop to see Millie first, Jack insists on going to the airport directly. She takes his feelings for excitement and happily plays along.
In Thailand, on their wedding night when Grace steps out of the bath, Jack is missing. He doesn't return the whole night leaving her frightened and worried. When he does come back in the morning, Grace realizes that her prince charming is not what he was all this while. Instead, he is a psychopath who enjoys torturing people. Turns out, he killed his own mother and sent his father to prison. Since then, he'd been looking for the perfect candidate to replace his mother. No, not to kill. Just to torture someone using the most lethal weapon of all - fear. He finds the perfect candidate in the park. Not Grace, but Millie. In order to get close to Millie, he marries Grace.
Right from the second day of her marriage, Grace is imprisoned. Once back from Thailand, he brings her to their dream house. The house is exactly as she had imagined it to be. Beyond beautiful. Everything is perfect, right from the lawn to the round window they always spoke about. But there lies a secret in the basement. And all the windows have iron bars on them that is remote controlled by Jack. Grace can't get out, no matter what. Every time she tries, something is taken away from her. Finally, she is left in the box room with just the bare necessities and at Jack's mercy. If he brings her food, she eats. Else, she starves. When people are called home, she hides all her pain and becomes the perfect hostess. Jack never leaves her side even for a minute. What if she slips in a word of her predicament to someone else.
With just a few months to Millie's arrival, Grace discovers the secret in the basement and decides that she cannot let Millie come live with them. Millie on the other hand is holding a secret of her own when it comes to Jack. How does Grace escape? Will she be able to save Millie? Is there someone else who is aware of Grace's problems? Or will this be the end to Grace and Millie?
For a debut novel, the writing is pretty great. The author explores scary aspects of psychology and the hero of the book remains fear. While Jack is crazy in every possible way, he is very clever when it comes to controlling his wife. Grace on the other hand succumbs to fear keeping the well being of Millie in mind. The story is brilliant and the narration is clever. But it does get hard to believe that someone could be so mean and cold towards another human being. It also gets hard to believe that someone who goes through so much can easily shift to a perfect hostess in a matter of minutes. But when fear is involved, I guess it does come easy. The book does leave some loose ends though. For example, why does Jack enjoy going to Thailand so much? He has no interest in sex nor is he gay. If torture is what he is interested in, how exactly is he getting his share of fun in Thailand? Also, when Grace receives a book, with 'Is everything alright' highlighted, she presumes Jack is playing a trick on her. But he seems shocked to hear it. Did Esther actually sense her problems and write this to her? These two questions find no answer in the book.
I did not find any similarities between this book and The Girl On The Train. Nor are their stories similar in any way. This is a good book, but it could have been great if the ending was a bit different. While the ending can be predicted right from the start of the book, how it happens was pretty lame. A stronger climax would have elevated the book to another level.
Verdict: An interesting look into the twisted nature of the human mind. Definitely worth a read.
Rating: 4 out of 5.