Title: The Breakdown
Author: B.A. Paris
Published: January 23rd 2017
Publisher: Harlequin Books Australia
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Thriller, Mystery
Rating: 4 stars
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…
The Breakdown, the second book from by B.A. Paris, immediately had me questioning the meaning of her book title. I took it to mean a few things – namely in reference to the mental breakdown the main character in this novel experiences. Is it entirely the blame of the main character Cass, or is an outside force trying to break her down? It could also refer to the car breakdown of the murdered character in the book that kicks off the book’s proceedings. Title queries aside, I completely enjoyed my second ride with B.A. Paris.
Cass is our central protagonist in The Breakdown. One night, after an evening socialising with friends, Cass decides to take an alternative route home through the woods. Knowing this isn’t the wisest choice as Cass knows the possible dangers of going doing this path, she travels with trepidation. When she sees a stationary car up ahead, with a woman at the wheel, she assumes she has broken down and the woman is calling for help. Cass doesn’t stop to check if this woman needs help and it is a split second decision that haunts her. The next day, Cass wakes to the news that the woman she saw the night before was murdered. Wracked with guilt, Cass spirals into despair, as simple everyday tasks become increasingly impossible. As Cass begins to question her mental state and her memory, the reader is left to decide if Cass is simply suffering a breakdown – or is something more sinister at work?
As with Behind Closed Doors, the debut novel released by B.A. Paris last year, The Breakdown is a suspense infused read. It is characterised by a flawed protagonist and features a deeply atmospheric setting. Paranoia is most certainly the name of the game in The Breakdown, as the reader is thrust into a quandary, questioning Cass’ integrity and her version of events. Although The Breakdown is the story of a murdered woman and solving the crime of who did it, it is also the story of a woman’s inability to handle bystander’s guilt.
Behind Closed Doors is a well plotted book that skilfully unravels in just the right way. The short and sharp chapter style adds to the pitch perfect pace of this novel, daring you to read just one more chapter. The tension bar is also set high, from the very beginning of the novel and it never really ceases until the closing pages. In general, I found The Breakdown less violent and chilling than Paris’ previous novel but it still got under my skin. I liked the exploration and use of Cass’ memory loss as a way to warp the events in the story. Her family history of early onset dementia had me questioning whether Cass’ take on the events that occurred in the novel was the complete truth. Paris’ use of the popular unreliable narrator device, which is characteristic of the popular domestic thriller genre, really worked in this novel.
The Breakdown will most likely leave you puzzled, it did with me but I gained a sense of enjoyment from this experience. The source of Cass’ fragile state of mind had me actively theorising for most of the novel. Paris does a good job of setting many of the characters in The Breakdown up for a fall, as well as leaving us to consider their integrity. Red herrings are filtered through this novel, as every character comes under scrutiny. The Breakdown is definitely a clever novel character wise and Paris builds a strong sense of menace, leading towards a big reveal ending. It was an ending that left me reeling for Cass, who comes out on the other side of this ordeal with a huge gap in her life.
B.A. Paris has carved out another very good addition to the domestic noir genre. The Breakdown is a novel full of paranoia, suspense and deceit. It also offers the reader a compulsive ride into one woman’s precarious state of mind. I definitely cannot get enough of the work of B.A. Paris and I eagerly anticipate her next release.
The Breakdown, by B.A. Paris was published in January 2017 by Harlequin Books Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.