In a desperate bid to reduce the books that are collecting dust on my TBR shelves, I have decided to collaborate with another avid reader and fellow book reviewer, Nicole from Certified Book Addicts. The #20BACKLISTIN2020 challenge is a self paced challenge hosted by Jaylamm.Reads, Reading and Sunshine, and Cassidys.Bookshelf. The overall goal of this challenge is to read 20 titles from the backlist books that are currently sitting on your TBR pile. For this challenge I will be reading non review books and taking my selections directly from my chock-a-block TBR bookcases (there are two shelved back to back). I will be publishing my reviews of these books on my blog and social media sites on the first and third Tuesday of the month.
Book #16 in the #20BACKLISTIN2020 challenge
Estimated TBR Shelf Life: 2 years
What would you do for the perfect life? Would you lie? Would you cheat? Would you kill? When Cecilia ends up looking after a boy with no home, dark secrets from her past force their way to surface…
A brilliant, twisty psychological thriller. Perfect for fans of Friend Request , He Said/She Said and A Simple Favour . ‘Unsettling, layered, bold, unpredictable, dark. EXCELLENT’ Will Dean, author of Dark Pines . ‘Grips like a vice … REMARKABLE’ Crime Time . Everyone has secrets. Even those who seem to be perfect… On a rainy October evening, Cecilia Wilborg – loving wife, devoted mother, tennis club regular – is waiting for her kids to finish their swimming lesson. It’s been a long day. She can almost taste the crisp, cold glass of Chablis she’ll pour for herself once the girls are tucked up in bed. But what Cecilia doesn’t know, is that this is the last time life will feel normal. Tonight she’ll be asked to drop a little boy home, a simple favour that will threaten to expose her deepest, darkest secret…
The Boy at the Door is penned by Alex Dahl, a dual citizen of America and Norway. The Boy at the Door is Dahl’s thrilling and moody debut novel. This domestic fiction title with a Nordic twist looks at self-image, reputation, family relations, marital strains, lies, drug abuse and poverty. A perplexing suspense based tale, this one definitely kept my mind ticking over.
Cecilia Wilborg is the chief protagonist of Alex Dahl’s The Boy at the Door. Cecilia’s central concern is her public image – she has the perfect home, career, husband and family. Cecilia will stop at nothing to keep this picture perfect life intact. However, behind this ideal facade lies a big secret that Cecilia has managed to keep under wraps for years. Cecilia knows that if anyone were to reveal this secret it would change the lives of everyone around her and her carefully ordered life would crumble. But waiting in the wings is an innocent little boy who holds the key to Cecilia’s lies. When Cecilia sets eyes on this little boy, she knows what she must do.
The Boy at the Door is a Nordic mystery title, with plenty of suspense, twists, narrative blocks, red herrings and an unreliable narrator conducting the major events of this tale. I don’t generally gravitate towards Nordic noir, as I tend to find issues with the translation, but in the case of The Boy at the Door, Dahl is half American and she has composed her first novel in English. Overall The Boy at the Door read very well.
Our guide for the term of this novel’s life is Cecilia Wilborg, a model wife and mother of two beautiful young girls. Cecilia is a successful and respected member of the local Sandefjord community. We learn very early on the piece that upholding her high community profile means everything to Cecilia. I could feel the immense pressure Cecilia placed on herself from the opening pages of this novel and I had the feeling from the beginning that this woman was going to experience a huge fall from grace. I was quite correct in my assumptions and the fallout from Cecilia’s seemingly perfectly ordered life is what makes this book a true page turner. I know I had a hard time putting The Boy at the Door down.
Dahl spaces Cecilia’s first person point of view with two other pivotal protagonists. I was often at odds with Cecilia, I didn’t trust her and I definitely flagged her as an unreliable narrator. Cecilia was also quite unlikeable, so it was often hard to understand her thought patterns, questionable actions and appalling decisions. There were a few times where my opinion of Cecilia changed and this was later on the piece where I gleaned some more facts about Cecilia’s past. I will say on the whole I found Cecilia to be fickle and complex. The narration of The Boy at the Door also includes the voice of Tobias, the troubled little boy who comes into Cecilia’s life by pure chance. Dahl does a good job of getting inside the mind of an innocent, but clearly confused young child. At times Tobias’s story was heartbreaking and I just wanted him to be nurtured. Anni is the third narrator of this tale. Anni’s perspective is relayed in the form of diaries and letters. These are deeply troubled musings, exposing the mind of a drug user. Dahl’s presentation of Anni’s life is not a sheltered one, we are privy to many of her low points and the occasional act of redemption. The perspectives of Anni and Tobias are the lifeblood that runs through this cautionary novel of the importance of telling the truth.
The atmosphere of The Boy at the Door is extended by the author’s full use of her Nordic backdrop. The township of Sandefjord is described in vivid detail, which I lapped up. I could feel the chilly air, the bleak landscape, the darkness and the bitter wind that engulfs this region during the winter months. The Boy at the Door is definitely a novel that would be best enjoyed beside a roaring fireplace, with a comfortable chair, a cosy blanket and perhaps a glass of mulled wine.
The Boy at the Door treks methodically to a revealing and surprising conclusion. It was a more than satisfying close to a book that I genuinely enjoyed following. If you love a good quality Nordic noir this one will definitely draw appeal.
**** 4 stars
The Boy at the Door by Alex Dahl was published on 27th June 2018 by Head of Zeus – GB. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of The Boy at the Door, Alex Dahl, visit here.