THE BREAKDOWN by B.A. Paris
St. Martin’s Press; on sale 7/18/17
CBTB Rating: 3/5
The Verdict: entertaining "beach read"
B.A. Paris’ debut psychological thriller, BEHIND CLOSED DOORS, was one of my most-recommended crime books last summer, and I was beyond excited to get my hands on a copy of her next thriller, THE BREAKDOWN. While THE BREAKDOWN doesn’t deliver the same addictive, spine-tingling suspense of BEHIND CLOSED DOORS, I still found myself hooked on this wholly entertaining story. This book is the epitome of a “beach read” if ever there was one. If you’re looking for a crime novel that’s pure entertainment—think fast-paced, not too violent or too dark but still suspenseful—THE BREAKDOWN belongs on your summer reading list.
THE BREAKDOWN brings readers along for the ride as one woman begins to lose her memory—and her mind.
Ever since the night she drove home from that party, Cass has been having a hard time. That night should have been normal. If she had just listened to her husband, if she hadn’t taken the back road home, her life might have continued on course… but she did take the back road, in the middle of a vicious thunderstorm, and she did see the woman stuck in her car on the side of the road. And she didn’t stop to help. When the next day, Cass learns that a woman was found murdered in the same spot as she saw the woman stuck, her guilt begins. And so does her forgetfulness. Cass is forgetting everything: where she left her car, if she took her pills, the alarm code—the only thing she can’t forget is the nagging guilt that she might have saved that woman’s life, if only she had stopped on her drive home. Then the silent phone calls start, and Cass begins to wonder if someone else knows what she’s guilty of, too…
THE BREAKDOWN epitomizes “summer reading.” This psychological thriller begs to be read by the pool on summer vacation. There’s just something about B.A. Paris’ writing that is fun—it’s not too serious, not too stuffy, and boy, does it move. I read this book in two sittings, I just couldn’t put it down. B.A. Paris has crafted a wholly entertaining story that hinges on the main characters’ deteriorating memory: I was totally absorbed as I watched Cass’ mental state fall apart. Paris ratchets up the tension bit by bit, bringing readers along as Cass goes from confused to alarmed to downright hysterical—a structure that kept me itching to see what she would do - and what would happen to her - next.
If you love a story featuring an unreliable narrator, you will find plenty of material to enjoy in THE BREAKDOWN. Cass is the ultimate unreliable narrator, unable to trust even her own understanding of the events unfolding around her—and B.A. Paris does a great job crafting a believable explanation for Cass' memory loss, making her predicament feel authentic and sympathetic to the reader.
That being said, THE BREAKDOWN still doesn’t deliver the same chills as did BEHIND CLOSED DOORS. I kept wanting just a little bit more intensity from this story—a little more tension and a little more darkness. BEHIND CLOSED DOORS managed to be both a "beach read" and a spine-tingling suspense story—THE BREAKDOWN doesn't achieve quite the same balance, leaning more towards the lighter "beach read" than a true thriller. But as I’ve digested the story since reading it last week, I’m more and more convinced that this book isn’t meant to be that kind of chilling crime novel: it’s not meant to be really twisted or really frightening. It’s meant to be exactly what it is: page-turning, addictive fun, if your idea of fun is watching a woman slowly unravel under guilt over a life she might have saved.
My biggest qualm with this book probably came at its ending. The “final reveal” of this story was just a bit too far-fetched for me—and I’m usually quite willing to follow authors wherever their story takes me. After turning the book's final page, I did wish for a bit more substance behind the story’s ending, or at least a few more hints along the way that might have made it seem more realistic. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I won’t say much more about this—but I will caution that if you’re a reader who puts a lot of stake in a mystery's final explanation, you might be frustrated by this one. If, on the other hand, you’re willing to grant the author a bit of leeway, you’ll be just fine with this story’s ultimate reveal.
I’m a huge believer that the world needs all kinds of crime books, and the world definitely needs crime books that don’t ask the reader to go too far into darkness, but rather pull the reader along on an utterly absorbing, “just-one-more-page” journey. THE BREAKDOWN is absolutely that kind of book, and I'm quite confident it will make a big splash on summer reading lists come July.
Many thanks to the publisher for my review copy! The above review represents my own honest and unbiased opinion.
Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Press (July 18, 2017)