Everyone knows a perfect couple. They appear to be blissfully in love, have well-matched temperaments, and all of their friends predict they will remain together for their entire lives. Jack and Grace appear to be just such a couple. Jack is impossibly handsome and charming, not to mention wealthy. He appears to dote on Grace, who is elegant, articulate, and perhaps just a tad stand-offish. Or does she just give that impression because Jack and Grace seem to never be apart, making it difficult to really get to know Grace?
They throw lavish dinner parties featuring delicious meals that Grace prepares herself. The conversation and wine flow freely. Naturally, Jack and Grace are ideal and gracious hosts. Grace’s friends would love to meet her for lunch. Yet she never answers her phone and when she does join them, Jack does, too.
Do Jack and Grace really have a perfect marriage?
Or is it all a perfect lie?
If it seems too good to be true, it probably is, as the saying goes. Told from Grace’s perspective, Behind Closed Doors alternates between the recent past and the present, the past a mere eighteen months prior to when, as Grace puts it, her “life became perfect . . . the day Jack danced with Millie in the park.” Millie is Grace’s younger, intellectually disabled sister for whom Grace has full responsibility. What Grace doesn’t realize at the time is that she and Millie did not meet Jack in the park by accident.
Behind Closed Doors has been accurately described as “unputtdownable.” As thrillers go, it is somewhat unusual in that it is not a “whodunit.” The villain is quickly revealed and the mystery revolves around whether Grace will find a way to escape from his clutches in time to save not only herself, but Millie, as well. The cliche is true: nothing is perfect, including Jack, his motives for marrying Grace, and his diabolical plans for the two of them. Jack is a disturbingly dark character, making Behind Closed Doors a poor choice for squeamish readers. Even first-time novelist B.A. Paris didn’t realize that Jack would “be as evil as he turned out to be.” She says that as she was writing, she “let the characters take over. Jack did this to such an extent that often, when I read back over what I had written the previous day, I was shocked that I could have written such dark things.”
Once Jack’s psychopathic nature and intent are revealed, the pace of the story picks up. It is absolutely relentless as the action alternates between the ever-less-distant past and the present until the two time periods merge. The conclusion is thrilling, extremely satisfying, and will undoubtedly take many readers by surprise.
To be fair, genuine enjoyment of Behind Closed Doors requires a fairly substantial suspension of disbelief. Grace is a strong, independent, self-reliant young woman who has willingly taken on the role of Millie’s caretaker and protector after their parents abandoned her. At the outset, Grace is not portrayed as a woman who would so readily abandon her own life in favor of melding into Jack’s. Once over that hurdle, however, Millie is quickly established as the heart and soul of both her big sister and the book. It is her love for and fierce desire to protect Millie that propels Grace forward. And Millie’s resilience and ingenuity are the most delightful surprises Paris presents to her readers. Employing a sparsity of verbiage, Paris conveys a depth of emotion from Grace and, especially, Millie that is engaging, touching, and motivates readers to invest in their fate.
Paris says that she was inspired to write Behind Closed Doors by a couple she knew “whose relationship seemed perfect on the outside but a couple of little incidents made me wonder if things were different when they were on their own.” Her debut novel is a suspense-filled, yet tender and triumphant reminder that things are rarely as they appear, on the surface, to be.