The Breakdown by BA Paris
The word breakdown has several different meanings:
This novel tackles all of these definitions.
"It'll only take me forty minutes. Unless I come back through the woods, by Blackwater Lane."
"Don't you dare!.......Cass, promise me you won't come back that way. First of all, I don't want you driving through the woods on your own at night and secondly, there's a storm coming."
So, what would you do? You're driving home to your rural cottage, late at night, in the middle of a storm. You take a shortcut through the woods, even though your husband has asked you not to travel this way as it is so remote and isolated. You see a parked car with a woman sitting inside it. You know your husband will be furious if he finds out you've taken this route and the downpour too heavy for you to really leave the car and investigate further. Do you stop? Do you get out? Or do you drive on?
Such a great premise for a book! And yes, a familiar set up - rain, wind, dark night, isolated roads, broken down cars...... the stuff of so many urban legends and horror movies but why not? It always works!
I lived in the countryside as a teenager and spent many late nights racing back through winding lanes terrifying myself with the ghost stories me and my friends had spent the evening telling each other - too proud to say anything as they waved me off smugly from their lit doorway! I could picture everything Paris described and I could feel Cass' dilemma as she panics about whether to stop or not.
But this isn't just a case of Cass' over imagination. When she wakes up the next day, she hears that this same woman she decided to drive past has been found dead ....... presumed to have been murdered. Now what should she do? What would you do?
I love how Paris explores how one small white lie - or a decision not to be transparent with the truth- suddenly spirals out of control and leads Cass deeper and deeper into a nightmare; a nightmare where she has to mask her true anxieties, feelings of guilt and fear of being judged. She cuts herself off emotionally from the two people she has always relied on to support her and then, as her fragile emotional state seems to disintegrate before her, she finds herself spinning more and more into a state of confusion and remorse.
Cass starts to forget things. Little things; meeting up with friends, where she left something, whether she had opened the upstairs window or not, why she'd ordered a pram when she isn't even pregnant. Is she suffering from 'periodic amnesia' or early onset dementia - a disease from which her mother had suffered before her recent death - or was she just 'away with the fairies'? Was it trauma and grief that was making her forget things and why was she so haunted by the death of the woman in the car?
Paris does a great job of capturing Cass's rapid descent into a kind of madness. As we see everything from Cass's point of view we are as confused as her as we try to work out whether she is telling us the truth or not. We are definitely on her side and full of sympathy for her; this woman has recently lost her mother, found herself in a new house and on the brink of a starting a family with Matthew but carries a niggling worry about whether he is the right man for her, a sense of inequality in the relationship and an irrational concern that she her forgetfulness is actually part of something more life threatening. I enjoyed the way we see events as they happen to Cass but then hear the other characters - primarily Matthew and Rachel who we believe to be centred, rational, supportive people who love Cass - reveal what has actually happened and then find ourselves as caught up in the fog of confusion as Cass.
The novel is written in a very engaging style. We are immediately drawn in by the chatty, informal voice of Cass who is a character very easy to relate to and empathise with. There is plenty of good, well paced dialogue and events move along at a satisfying pace. I found myself turning the pages and becoming totally absorbed in the novel without even realising.
As the story progressed I did feel that Paris might have been beginning to tread a fine line between effectively raising the tension and overplaying Cass's mental anguish; there was a slight threat that she might lose the reader. For me, I did feel that I needed to suspend belief a little, particularly when Cass's medication takes full effect and there is a lack of intervention from any other characters who would surely have become concerned or suspicious about her changing personality and problems. But, having said that, I cared enough about Cass to go along with this and I was interested enough in finding out what was going on to read on. I was sure there would be a reason for everything and I knew I could trust in Paris.
And I'm so glad I did! Just as there was the risk of losing my sympathy and getting a little fed up with Cass's repetitively long days of drug induced sleep and forgetfulness, wham! Breakdown.
Literally, figuratively, physically, mentally. Everything. A complete breakdown of everything the reader thought they knew, everything Cass thought she knew; a breakdown of every relationship, event, happening and even the ending we were anticipating.
The twist begins slowly. A few observations, a few casual remarks, a gradual revisiting of past moments. There isn't a sudden penny dropping moment, but rather a slower awakening- like when you put your penny in one of those huge basin type things and it begins to circulate at the top, rolling around and around, eventually lowering itself loop by loop until the momentum builds and suddenly it hurtles towards the centre and falls into the black hole! I really liked the delivery of these slight twists that actually changed the whole direction of the book, recaptured the pace and charged on to an electrifying ending.
I must admit, I had an inkling of how the story might end and there was a sense of convenience about the way in which all the threads were tied up. But, sometimes it's good to know everything and sometimes it's great to walk away from a novel completely satisfied and with everything resolved.
I liked the last line a lot!
I would recommend this book. I think it's going to be a hit. I think it has good characters and a great plot. I think Paris handles writing about dementia and memory loss really well and I think she successfully manages to write from the point of view of a character who barely trusts themselves. It has all the ingredients of psychological thriller and will not disappoint fans of "Behind Closed Doors". Once again themes of entrapment, obsession, love and trust dominate the novel and once again carry the reader along through an atmospheric story peppered with suspense and tension.
Enjoy it! But keep an eye on what you order online and whether you've closed that upstairs window or not!
The Breakdown is out on 9th February 2017 by HQ Digital Press.
For my review of "Behind Closed Doors" click below:
Bibliomaniac: What is waiting behind all these closed doors?
For more recommendations and reviews please follow me on Twitter @katherinesunde3 (bibliomaniacuk)
B A Paris
B.A. PARIS grew up in England but has spent most of her adult life in France. She has worked both in finance and as a teacher and has five daughters.
You can follow her on Twitter @BAParisAuthor