I picked this book up from the newly-released fiction shelf in Waterstones, drawn to the ominous title and striking cover, intrigued by an author I hadn’t yet encountered. After reading the blurb, I was tickled by a familiarity to Harlan Coben’s “Safe”, which I binge-watched on Netflix, enthralled by the heightened suspicion and toxic intrusiveness of a crime behind the entrance of an exclusive gated community.
When Alice moves into a spacious, show-home-style house in a London gated community known as The Circle – a testament to the circular structure of the twelve houses, angled inward to face each other over a courtyard – everything seems to have fallen into place for her. Not only has she found her dream home, but she is now finally able to start her life with her partner – Leo – with whom she has only experienced a long-distance relationship thus far. Previously having to commute between Sussex and London to be together, the location of number 3 in The Circle is perfect for them, situated near central London to accommodate Leo’s job, while still offering the safe, friendly neighbourhood that Alice desires. But it isn’t long before this idealistic fantasy crumbles around her…
The proceeding plot uncovers the hidden secrets and lies of the people Alice thought she could trust, and the horrors that lie underneath carefully constructed facades and layers of sinister deceit. Much like with Harlan Coben’s “Safe”, the setting of a very exclusive, tight-knit gated community makes for an exceptionally tense storyline: there was a time where I suspected nearly every character in the book of the crime that Alice soon discovers took place in the house she now calls home. Well, every character except who it turned out to be… Which is a definite merit for this plot! While there were avenues I was able to predict quite early on, for the most part I was surprised as new revelations came to fruition, scrambling for theories that were dampened quickly by the next chapter. Particularly towards the end, with the thrilling climax and gripping fallout, the storyline was exciting to the point where you just had to have one more chapter, until suddenly it’s been hours and your kitten is annoyed at you for ignoring her.
One thing I will note on the storyline of The Therapist was that it was incredibly easy to follow. Unlike other thriller novels where half-way through I’m kicking myself for not taking notes, B A Paris is thoughtful in the way there always seems to be heavy recapping by the main protagonist, Alice. My feelings on this are a little conflicted: while I appreciate knowing what’s going on at all times, I also don’t appreciate knowing what’s going on at all times – as paradoxical as that seems. Sometimes a good thriller needs a bit of ambiguity – I sometimes love it when my head is spinning trying to recall the facts and formulate a timeline. The way in which it was so explicitly explained so regularly almost made it feel more like an adventure genre than a thriller – particularly towards the end, when all the explanations for everything were just being barfed up. It almost felt like the end of a Famous Five where the children are word-vomiting the adventure they’ve had to the adults in the story. I think it could have done with less explanation and more inference, but at the same time it did make for easy-reading. I always knew what was going on and it was simple – like watching TV, which is probably why I got through it so quick!
Much like with the plot, the characters were easily-identifiable and distinctive – and I didn’t need to take notes on any of the couples residing in The Circle; they were already clearly portrayed in my head. This has to be the first book I’ve read in a loooong time where the vast majority of the chapters are told from one single perspective, as opposed to multiple characters’ viewpoints, and maybe that’s why I also found this read so refreshingly straight-forward. I didn’t need to keep thinking back to previous chapters to remember where that person’s narrative was left off – it was mostly all told from the first-person perspective of Alice, who I grew rather fond of, empathising with her internal conflicts, ethical dilemmas, and desire for the truth, given what she has been through already in her life.
As for the other characters, I didn’t find them too likeable – probably because I was suspicious of them all… But they were engaging, with neat little backstories and the glimmer of unknown to make each one of them a viable suspect.
Would I recommend?
All in all, yes. It was a good book, and I really enjoyed it! I would strongly recommend this book if you enjoy thrillers, but find them a little too much like hard work. Lots of people like to relax with a book after a long day, and the more recent thriller/crime releases can be a bit taxing – perhaps fuelling the ever-rising preference for Netflix shows where your mind doesn’t need to do any of the heavy-lifting… But let me assure you – with this book, it is equally relaxing and exciting; a great easy-read!