By Ekta R. Garg
July 19, 2017
Genre: Psychological thriller
Release date: July 18, 2017
Rated: Borrow it / 3 stars
A woman finds herself passing a lone motorist during a stormy night only to find out the next morning that the motorist got murdered. The woman begins to experience anxiety and guilt over not helping the victim, and when strange things start to happen at home she doesn’t know if it’s her conscience or something else driving her to question everything. Author B.A. Paris offers readers a pounding beginning to a novel that slows down to a plodding pace before rushing to a thoughtful ending in the moderately successful book The Breakdown.
It’s the end of the school year, and high school teacher Cass Anderson is spending the evening with her colleagues at a pub to celebrate another successful term. A storm breaks out just as she gets ready to leave, and she calls home to let her husband, Matthew, know she’s on her way. He tells her to stay on the main highway, knowing her tendency to take the shortcut through the woods to cut down on driving time.
Despite Matthew’s advice, Cass decides on impulse to take the shortcut. The storm has frightened her, and she wants nothing more than to get home as soon as possible. If that means enduring a somewhat scary drive through the woods, so be it.
On her drive down the little lane, Cass spots a parked car. She slows down long enough to see the outline of a woman in the driver’s seat, but the rain prevents her from seeing any distinguishing features. Cass thinks about asking the woman if she needs help, but the storm’s ferocity makes her decide against it.
The next day the media deliver the shocking news that the woman was found murdered, and the police have narrowed down the time of the killing close to when Cass drove past her. In the overwhelming guilt that ensues over the fact that she didn’t stop to help, Cass doesn’t tell Matthew that she took the shortcut. Her guilt gets worse when Cass finds out she actually knew the victim, Jane. They’d met through Cass’s best friend, Rachel, and Cass and Jane hit it off right away. In fact, the two had had lunch only weeks before Jane’s murder and had made plans to meet again.
Cass can’t get over the fact that if only she had helped Jane, maybe her new friend would still be alive. When Cass thinks of Jane’s twin toddlers and sees news reports of Jane’s devastated husband, she convinces herself that in a roundabout way she’s just as responsible for Jane’s death as the murderer.
Around the same time, Cass begins to forget things. Items ordered from a home shopping network show up on the doorstep. She can’t figure out how to use the appliances in her own kitchen anymore. Friends call and wonder why she doesn’t show up for planned lunch dates. Then there are the mysterious phone calls where Cass answers and the person on the other end doesn’t say anything at all. Could it be the murderer?
The forgetfulness terrifies Cass. She was there when her late mother received the diagnosis of early-onset dementia and spent three years as her mother’s caregiver. Cass knows what those last months and weeks look like. She doesn’t want to live through them herself.
Nothing makes sense. Bit by bit she finds her mental faculties starting to fail her, and her frustration hits an all-time high. She’ll have to do something, she knows, if she ever wants her life back. But she doesn’t know how to trust herself anymore.
Author B.A. Paris caught the attention of readers with her first novel, Behind Closed Doors, but her second book falls somewhat short. Within the opening pages of The Breakdown, readers will most likely guess what’s responsible for Cass’s deteriorating condition. Paris manages to offer just enough doubt to make readers wonder, but at some point initial suspicions will be confirmed.
While Paris certainly offers an engaging opening to the book, soon thereafter the entire plot begins to crawl as Cass is caught in an exhausting cycle of receiving phone calls and enduring her forgetfulness. Because the chapters are dated, readers will see that literally weeks go by—almost an entire summer—where Cass really isn’t doing much of anything other than sitting around and thinking about how scared she is. At some point, her fear gets boring.
The end of the book picks up momentum once again as Cass tackles her situation with a more proactive approach, but many readers may be tempted to give up on the story by then. Paris fans will probably stick with it; others might want to consider passing on the book. I recommend readers Borrow The Breakdown by B.A. Paris.