Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Book Review: THE BREAKDOWN by B.A. Paris

The Breakdown

Author: B. A. Paris
St. Martin's Press
February 2017
Expected publication: 20 June 2017

Synopsis (Goodreads):

If you can’t trust yourself, who can you trust?

Cass is having a hard time since the night she saw the car in the woods, on the winding rural road, in the middle of a downpour, with the woman sitting inside―the woman who was killed. She’s been trying to put the crime out of her mind; what could she have done, really? It’s a dangerous road to be on in the middle of a storm. Her husband would be furious if he knew she’d broken her promise not to take that shortcut home. And she probably would only have been hurt herself if she’d stopped.

But since then, she’s been forgetting every little thing: where she left the car, if she took her pills, the alarm code, why she ordered a pram when she doesn’t have a baby.

The only thing she can’t forget is that woman, the woman she might have saved, and the terrible nagging guilt.

Or the silent calls she’s receiving, or the feeling that someone’s watching her… 

My thoughts:

One split decision can change your life ... Young teacher Cass is on her way home from a party when she decides to take a shortcut, turning onto a deserted road leading through dense forest. Whilst it is a popular and picturesque drive during the day, at night it is dark and lonely and not considered safe by her husband Matthew. In fact, she has promised him to stick to the main roads, but it’s late, and it’s raining and she just wants to get home to her warm bed. On her way through the woods she notices a car parked in a parking bay on the side of the road with its headlights on. Pulling over to check if the person needs assistance, she sees the outline of a young woman behind the steering wheel, looking back at her through the rain. The woman makes no move to signal distress, so thinking that she is not needed, Cass drives on home through the storm and forgets all about the encounter. Until she hears on the news the next morning that a young woman has been found murdered in her car on the very same road. And the nightmare begins ....

Paris quickly reeled me in with her story, partly due to the fact that I do a lot of driving on lonely country roads without phone reception at night. Would I stop if I was in Cass’ position? To be honest, I am not sure. The roads are scary places alone at night, and you feel very vulnerable. Paris’ description of Cass’ moral dilemma is well executed, as is her subsequent disintegration as guilt and fear weigh heavily on her.

“Anybody would stop if they saw someone in trouble, wouldn’t they?”
“Would they, though? On a lonely road and in a storm?” I desperately wanted the answer to be “No.”
“Well, not unless they didn’t have a conscience. Nobody would just drive on. They’d at least do something.”

I liked the portrayal of a vulnerable young woman, scarred by the untimely death of her mother after a battle with early onset dementia. When strange things start happening around her, Cass is convinced that she must surely be going crazy and follow the same downward spiral as her mother did. Cass is a likeable protagonist, and one I wanted to root for in the face of the challenges she faces, even though I felt that the whole “unreliable narrator” concept was a bit overdone at times with Cass acting quite irrationally for an educated, smart young woman.

Whilst the start of the book had me firmly in its grip, parts of the last third fell a bit flat for me, but I can’t go into that for fear of spoiling things for other readers. Let’s just say that I guessed early on what was happening, and felt that the grip the book had on me loosened considerable once that part of the mystery had been solved. Whilst the ending was clever in a double jeopardy kind of way, it all came together a bit too neatly, losing some credibility. The mystery and its final twist could have been more convincing had more time been spent on character development of some of the supporting characters. I also disliked that a lot of time was spent relaying SMS messages, which seemed like an unexciting way to resolve an element of the story that had so much more potential to be clever and tense. This may not be an issue for other readers, but for me the tension that the author had been trying to build up suddenly deflated with a loud pffffft like a flat tire. Shame!

Whilst  The Breakdown was a quick, entertaining and reasonably enjoyable read, it didn’t mess with my head enough to make it memorable. However, I do think its atmospheric setting would make a fantastic movie! I also really enjoyed Paris’ writing style, which will make me look out for other titles by the same author. 

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a free electronic copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review. 

Image result for 3 stars

1 comment:

  1. I thought it was insufferable, middle-class twaddle. I'd figured out the plot by page 60. I won't bother with any more of Ms. Paris's work.