Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris is a thriller on domestic abuse.
Jack and Grace are the perfect couple. They live in a beautiful house, have beautiful vacation photos, and are beautiful people – Jack is a brilliant lawyer for battered women who has never lost a case before and Grace is the graceful wife who can paint, garden, and cook elaborate dinners. The two are excited to have Grace’s little sister, Millie, live with them after she finishes school despite Millie having down syndrome and requiring extra care.
Yes, Jack wants very dearly for Millie to live with them soon. Not necessarily because he has a beautiful heart too, mostly because he’s a psychopathic bastard.
… it’s a shame he’s such a sadistic bastard, because he has wonderful manners.
* Spoilers ahead
2D at best
I like this book, I really do. It was a real page turner, but this is a thriller based on actions, not suspense, and although this way of writing still kept me hooked, it created a lack of overall depth which was only heightened by the characters, who are all 2D at best.
What do I mean by 2D? It means your stereotypical character silhouettes. In real life, every person is a composition of many complicated layers of good and bad, but in this novel, every person seems to be exactly who you think they are.
Jack is the perfect man on the outside but all evil on the inside. At no time is there a shred of humanity in him, and I quickly realized this when he spilled his horrific backstory within the first 5 chapters of the book. Grace with her gentle infinite love for her sister and desperation to escape and save both of them, is exactly the poor victim silhouette that is designed to have readers root for her. And this is just the two main characters! Don’t even get me started on the side characters – the neighbours are your classic “fawn-over-the-perfect-couple” characters, and we never even learn Grace’s parents’ names because that’s how much depth was missing in terms of character development. They literally could’ve not existed in the story at all and it probably wouldn’t have made a big difference.
The creation of Grace and Jack is nothing short of the simple devil and angel story line. There is no evil in Grace in the same way there is no goodness in Jack, and that is what makes Behind Closed Doors a runner-up compared to Gone Girl. They both need to be fucked up for readers to understand how dark and scary humans can really be.
“Kill George Clooney”
“I like Jack but I don’t like Jorj Koony.”
The only character that really had an ounce of depth is Millie, and unfortunately we don’t get an inside look at what runs through Millie’s mind. Grace’s narrative paints Millie up as someone who needs to be protected, which is fair, but Millie is probably the smartest character out of all of them, regardless of her mental capabilities.
I know nothing about down syndrome so I have no idea how accurate her portrayal of such a trait is, but Millie’s emotional intelligence makes her the only character that gets the plot rolling. Millie knows Jack is a bad man. She can tell Grace is very afraid and she is smart enough to give Grace access to something that helps with her ultimate escape. Even more ironic is that Millie is able to keep herself relatively safe by identifying Jack as George Clooney, so although Millie was very transparent with her feelings and intentions about disliking Jack and even wanting to kill him, Jack never realizes Millie is talking about him.
Esther goes from 0 to 100
I look around at everybody laughing and joking together and struggle to understand my life has become a living hell that nobody present could even begin to imagine
Okay, so maybe you’re thinking “What about Esther? She knew something was up! Look what she was willing to do for Grace at the end!”
And maybe you’re right, maybe Esther is the smartest character in this whole book, but the truth is you and I will never know because she basically appears in the end as some sort of a sidekick hero. Of course, Esther is skeptical of Grace and Jack’s relationship throughout the story, but I dare to say her skepticism is a normal level of suspicion and it is only because of the other 2D neighbours that Esther is portrayed to be smarter than she actually is. If Paris had given us a more concrete detail about Esther – maybe if is was a psychologist who can see signs of domestic abuse – it would be more believable. Instead, Esther jumps from 0 to 100, her rationale for grasping Grace’s situation only based on Jack’s tiny mistake of saying Millie’s room will be red. Like what?
At least Esther wraps up most of the loose ends. Again, this novel is all action-based and with Esther’s actions at the end, everything seems to make logical sense. The only downfall is that it is unrealistic.
Ultimately, Behind Closed Doors is a thrilling read and the ending did give me some shivers. Although the scenario a bit too far-fetched for my taste, it still offered good insights into the unknown horrors people around you may be facing which you are not even aware of. The most excruciating feeling I had when I read this novel was the idea that Grace’s life was a living hell and nobody had the slightest clue.
And sadly, maybe nobody cared enough to find out.
P.S. So did Esther outline those words in the book or not?! Tell me your thoughts on this book if you’ve read it!