LOCK EVERY DOOR by Riley Sager
Dutton Books; 7/2/19
CBTB Rating: 5/5
The Verdict: a must-read — gothic suspense with a modern twist
If you pack one book in your beach bag this summer, make it Riley Sager’s razor-sharp take on gothic suspense: LOCK EVERY DOOR, available July 2nd. You know those authors who just seem to get better and better with each new book? Sager is one of them, and LOCK EVERY DOOR cements him as a staple of any psychological thriller reader’s library. Blending horror tropes with spine-tingling suspense and juicy, just-one-more-page intrigue, LOCK EVERY DOOR invites readers inside one of New York’s most exclusive addresses—a place that might never let its readers - or its residents - go. Enter the Bartholomew: a (fictional) high-end apartment building overlooking Central Park. When down-on-her-luck protagonist Jules secures a position as an apartment-sitter in the Bartholomew, she can hardly believe her luck. But as Jules settles in and befriends a fellow apartment-sitter, she begins to worry that this beautiful building hides within its walls secrets darker than she could have ever imagined. In LOCK EVERY DOOR, Sager crafts a page-turning story of gothic suspense worthy of a place alongside the horror classics that inspired it. Protagonist Jules is a relatable and compelling millennial: a young woman struggling against the odds to make a life for herself, who just so happens to accept a job that might be her last. In the Bartholomew, nothing is as it seems. Enter at your own risk.
No visitors. No nights spent away from the apartment. No disturbing the other residents, all of whom are rich or famous or both. These are the only rules for Jules Larsen’s new job as an apartment sitter at the Bartholomew, one of Manhattan's most high-profile and mysterious buildings. Recently heartbroken and just plain broke, Jules is taken in by the splendor of her surroundings and accepts the terms, ready to leave her past life behind.
As she gets to know the residents and staff of the Bartholomew, Jules finds herself drawn to fellow apartment sitter Ingrid, who comfortingly reminds her of the sister she lost eight years ago. When Ingrid confides that the Bartholomew is not what it seems and the dark history hidden beneath its gleaming facade is starting to frighten her, Jules brushes it off as a harmless ghost story . . . until the next day, when Ingrid disappears.
Searching for the truth about Ingrid’s disappearance, Jules digs deeper into the Bartholomew's sordid past and into the secrets kept within its walls. What she discovers pits Jules against the clock as she races to unmask a killer, expose the building’s hidden past, and escape the Bartholomew before her temporary status becomes permanent.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: the hardest reviews to write are for the books I loved the most. I’ve written and rewritten this review of LOCK EVERY DOOR more times than I can count… so hopefully that gives you a sense of just how much I loved Sager’s newest release. This delicious blend of gothic suspense and modern-day psychological thriller is everything a horror fan like yours truly wants to read on vacation: it’s not too scary, but creepy enough to give you goosebumps; it’s not too violent, but delivers some iconic, burned-in-your-brain scenes worthy of a horror movie; its characters aren’t overly-drawn or underdone, but the perfect balance of melodramatic and seriously relatable. In short, LOCK EVERY DOOR is a superb balancing act: a psychological suspense novel that walks the (very fine) line between ode to classic horror and inventive, modern-day suspense story all its own. If you’ve ever wondered what would happen if a millennial walked into the plot of an Ira Levin story, LOCK EVERY DOOR is the book for you.
If you asked me to design a suspense novel perfectly tailored to suit my preferences, I would probably wish for something exactly like LOCK EVERY DOOR. One of my greatest weaknesses as a reader is a crime story with a setting that becomes a character unto itself—and that’s exactly what Sager gives us with his vividly drawn fictional apartment building, the Bartholomew. In many ways, LOCK EVERY DOOR reads like Sager’s ode to New York: steeped in the magic and lore of Manhattan’s iconic high-end real estate, and belying the dark underbelly of a world that feels unattainable and magical to most of us, LOCK EVERY DOOR acknowledges the mystique of New York City while also considering the dark side that often exists hand in hand with this level of opulence. Overlooking Central Park, the Bartholomew is a formidable presence: from its luxurious if somewhat heavy-handed interior to the gargoyles that adorn its exterior, Sager lovingly and vividly crafts his fictional apartment building with all the care of an architect perfecting his masterpiece. Spiral staircases, old-fashioned elevators, dumbwaiters, opulent wallpaper, impeccable furnishings—the world that protagonist Jules Larsen steps into in the Bartholomew couldn’t be farther from her couch-surfing past, and she can hardly believe her luck that she gets to call this storied building home. But as any horror reader will know, buildings this old and grand aren’t without their own histories. As Jules makes herself at home in her new world, she begins to feel a sinister presence in the Bartholomew. Could this building’s history be dangerous to its modern-day inhabitants?
Weaving between past and present, Sager expertly crafts a story of suspense that will raise the hairs on even the most seasoned crime reader’s arms. The Bartholomew isn’t an ordinary apartment building, you see, and our protagonist Jules is about to find out just how extraordinary it is. As she settles into her new life, Jules befriends another apartment sitter in the building—a young woman who comes from similar circumstances to Jules, but has been a resident of the Bartholomew just a bit longer. But something is off with Jules’ new friend. Whispers of dark events in the Bartholomew’s past soon catch Jules’ attention, and when her new friend goes missing, Jules finds herself thrown into an intricate mystery stretching back generations. What kind of place is the Bartholomew really? And why does it seem plagued by so very many suspicious deaths and disappearances? Our “everywoman” protagonist sets out to investigate, and soon discovers that her new home isn’t as picture-perfect as it seems. Sager brilliantly laces this psychological suspense novel with little suggestions of the otherworldly; could the Bartholomew be home to forces beyond Jules’ understanding? LOCK EVERY DOOR is a psychological thriller laced with scares worthy of the big screen.
Speaking of protagonist Jules Larsen: I can’t let this review come to an end without discussing what is sure to be my favorite of Sager’s characters yet. Jules Larsen is an “everywoman”: a millennial woman facing challenges deeply relatable to anyone who has ever worried about money or found themselves lacking direction in life. After splitting up with her two-timing boyfriend, Jules finds herself without a permanent address and with only a couple hundred dollars to her name. She’s been crashing on her best friend’s couch for weeks, applying for jobs with little luck. So when the opportunity to apartment sit at the Bartholomew - and earn a few thousand dollars in the process - falls into her lap, it’s too good for her not to take it. The circumstances in which Jules finds herself at the Bartholomew might be extraordinary, but the circumstances that Jules leaves behind by accepting this job are anything but. Jules is Sager’s most relatable protagonist yet; her money woes, career uncertainty, and wish for some semblance of stability in an ever-changing world rang true to this reader. But do you know what else rang true about Jules? Her resilience. She might be a down-to-earth character, but she’s a final girl through and through—an ode to the leading ladies of horror film, no doubt, but I also like to think she’s an ode to the resilience in all of us, too. Jules Larsen is the kind of heroine crime fiction needs more of: an ordinary woman with extraordinary courage. Just trust me, when you get to this book’s denoument (an epic, iconic scene that might just be my single favorite scene from any crime book of 2019 so far), you’ll be cheering for Jules all the way.
Reviewing a book you absolutely, completely loved is always a double-edged sword: on the one hand, you’re dying to tell everyone just how much you loved the read, but on the other hand, you’re worried you’ll never do the book justice. That’s where I stand with Riley Sager’s exceptional psychological thriller LOCK EVERY DOOR. Sager just seems to get better and better with each new release, and LOCK EVERY DOOR is objectively his best book yet. He’s got a huge fanbase around the world already, but Sager’s readership deserves to grow leaps and bounds with his newest release. So if you haven’t yet read a Riley Sager book, let’s not mince words: pick this book up as soon as possible.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. All opinions my own.
Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: Dutton (July 2, 2019)
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