Wednesday, July 19, 2017

A study of fear and guilt

The Breakdown

B. A. Paris


Publisher:  St. Martin's Press 

Pub. Date: July 18, 2017

rating: 3 & 1/2 out of 5 stars

Cass is headed home to her cottage and husband when she passes a car on the road. She is driving on a secluded road, a "shortcut", in the middle of a relentless rain storm. She sees a woman sitting in a car but can't tell who it is. She pulls over but is afraid to get out, partially due to the storm but more because of her fear that it may be a set up for a robbery or worst. The woman in the car remains sitting there. Cass drives away promising herself she will call the police when she gets home. She forgets to call and wake up that next morning to discover on the news that the woman was murdered that night.

She is engulfed by guilt and, worried how others will see her actions, tells no one including her husband or the police. Shortly after this, she finds her memory failing. She forgets a number of things ranging from where she left her coffee cup to where she parked her car. She doesn't remember buying things like a baby pram or ordering the installation of a house alarm. She believes that someone is in her house or sees what she thinks may be the murder knife on the kitchen table but the police find nothing when they arrive. And then there are the constant phone calls from someone who doesn't respond when it is picked up. Cass fears that she is being stalked by the murderer of the young woman but she is just as afraid that she may be having a mental breakdown or is beginning the descent into dementia.

The experienced reader of suspense and mystery novels will catch on to a tried and true theme in The Breakdown very quickly. it is about a woman that appears to be mentally deteriorating . The experience with the woman in the car is the catalyst and we read to see how they relate to each other and if they relate at all. The author, B. A. Paris, plays it like a fiddle. We read the narration in Cass' perspective so we do not get the clues until she does. Cass is a young woman who is in love with her husband and life in general but is constantly worried about suffering the fate of her mother which was early onset dementia. We can instantly identify with the potential loss of her dreams to an unforgiving ailment. Paris pays into that well and it is what makes The Breakdown so involving.

But while this is what holds us, it is the familiarity of the plot that may hinder our full enjoyment. This is well traveled territory and, while the author tries hard to place some new twists into it, sooner or later it becomes formulaic. Most readers will figure out what is going on early if not necessarily all the whos and hows. Fortunately those whos and hows is what keep us in the read. Paris uses a nice gimmick near the resolution to feed us the loose ends while our protagonist wraps up the ending. It all works but it doesn't knock me out of my seat and eventually makes the great beginning and slow build up a little less effective.

While it doesn't break any new ground, it is still an entertaining novel and a solid psychological thriller made most effective by its study of a woman potentially losing her mind to her life long fears. It still gets a strong three and a half stars and my solid recommendation for an entertaining suspense read.

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