I have to be honest by way of an introduction to this review and say that I don’t normally read thrillers as a literary genre. I was a fan in my younger years but went off them as I got older and haven’t really returned.
However this particular one kept popping up on my IG feed so I decided to check out the plot. From there I was immediately hooked into it before I had even turned a single page. A well written blurb can make all the difference between picking something off the shelf to take away and putting it back and walking on.
It unfolds ….
Jules Larsen is going through a very bad patch in her life that started many years ago when her sister Jane went missing, her current whereabouts are still unknown. Her parents both died a few years after that while she was at college, and she subsequently moved to New York City in search of a life for herself. What she had built (megar as it was) came crashing down two weeks before the story starts when she loses her job and discovers her boyfriend cheating on her. She crashes on her best friends couch while waiting for a break when she spies an ad in the paper that could be the answer to all her prayers.
An apartment sitter is needed at what turns out to be one of the most exclusive addresses in New York – the Bartholomew. Despite the fact that it sounds too good to be true – $1000 cash a week to occupy a lavish top story pad overlooking Central Park for three months – she takes it out of desperation. She is almost destitute with a mountain of debt, frozen credit cards and no job prospects on the horizon.
There are one or two unusual rules to follow – she must spend every night of the three months in the apartment and can have no visitors … ever – but she accepts these as the price for such an incredible opportunity. However it doesn’t take long for her big life reset to start to unravel as she learns more about the building’s dark history which leads to suspicions about some of the other residents and the fates of previous tenants.
And it is there that I will stop with the plot as I don’t want to give away too much of the story. Thrillers, after all, rely on the excitement of discovery as the layers are peeled back and everything unfolds.
I will state clearly and succinctly as I can …. I LOVED THIS BOOK!
For a start it is very well written. The author is skillful enough to build up a picture of Jules and her life at the point of the stories’ beginning which helps give you an understanding as to why she would accept such a job and stick with it even when circumstances dictated that she should really leave for her own safety and sanity. He makes you, the reader, feel Jules’ desperate need for life to give her a break and help her out. Little does she (and you) know just how much she will have to endure before she can see light at the end of the tunnel. Sager’s use of the first person perspective really assists with this as well as giving insight into Jules’ building panic as she learns more surrounding the predicament she finds herself in.
I also thought the use of the ‘countdown to the present’ a very effective way of building tension and suspense. The books starts with a short chapter in the here and now and then moves to ‘Four Days Earlier’, ‘Three Days Earlier’ and so forth until we return fully to the present day and beyond. This method really helps the story to keep moving forward. It’s a great example of the way the story is constructed working hand in hand with plot and characterisation to help build tension within the narrative.
Another element that makes this book a winner for me is the setting – New York. While there aren’t many long descriptive passages about the city, you still get a good sense of where you are. It’s subtle and not overdone but still with local taste and flavour. For instance, there is a chapter in which Jules is in a cab racing through the streets trying to get back to the Bartholomew. We get a real sense of scale of the city as the author (via Jules) counts down the number of blocks to go before her target is reached. I was uttering furiously under my breath (I was on a crowded train at this point) ‘hurry up for goodness sake!’ and ‘damn New York traffic!’
I will say that I did spot one of the twists quite a way out – maybe it is my suspicious nature – and when the final plot is revealed it does have some elements that had me asking some questions, but these were nothing too serious and did not spoil my enjoyment of the book overall.
I will end by saying that I am so pleased that I put aside my usual reluctance regarding thrillers and read this book. It’s turned out to be one of my favourite books for the year. It has inspired me to look at the author’s back catalogue and read those titles as well.
Highly highly recommended!
And the moral of the story …..
If something sounds too good to be true, it almost certainly is!
(Header Image: Sarah Kreig)