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Thursday 23 February 2017

‘The Breakdown’ by B A Paris

Published by HarperCollins,
9 February 2017.
ISBN: 978-1-84845-499-6

When a novel begins with an edge-of-the-seat drive through a dark wood in a huge storm, it’s tempting to wonder how much further the tension can be ramped up. But that journey is only the beginning of the nightmare in this edgy and often terrifying psychological thriller.

Cass is a teacher, about to start the long summer holiday, and her life is apparently perfect. She loves her job, has some good friends including businesswoman Rachel who she has known since childhood, and is married to Matthew, a Robert Redford lookalike who seems to adore her. There’s money in the bank thanks to Cass’s late mother, and they even have vague plans to start a family.

Then, that stormy night, she passes a car in a lay-by – and the following day learns that its occupant has been found murdered, and that’s it’s someone she knew. After such a shocking discovery, her life starts to spiral out of control. At first it’s small things: a forgotten gift, a barbecue invitation that slips her mind. But Cass’s mother died young, after several years of early-onset dementia; though she’s only in her thirties, she begins to fear she is heading the same way.

The memory lapses escalate; even lovely Matthew starts to lose patience, and insists she sees the doctor. That’s when things really go pear-shaped...

B A Paris proves adept at the subtle art of misleading the reader, largely through Cass’s own first-person narration. We see mainly what she sees, as her guilt about not stopping to help the woman in the lay-by eats into her and undermines her confidence. But always, on the edge of consciousness, is the sense that something outside her control is going on. When the truth finally emerges, the answers are so obvious, and yet so shocking and surprising, that you’ll want to kick yourself, as I did, for not seeing it earlier.

Paris draws her characters well. Sharp-edged Rachel and loving but exasperated Matthew hover around Cass as she disintegrates; slightly too friendly John and other friends are only sketches, but seen through Cass’s clouded eyes that’s as they should be. The village and small town locations are only sketched as well, but to the protagonists they are so familiar that detailed descriptions would be inappropriate.

Mainly, The Breakdown is about the plot: Cass’s descent into a nightmare world in which she becomes less and less aware of what is real. I descended into that nightmare with her – and that’s the sign of a well-crafted psychological thriller.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

B A Paris is the internationally bestselling author of Behind Closed Doors, her debut novel. She was brought up in England and moved to France where she spent some years working in Finance before re-training as a teacher and setting up a language school with her husband. They still live in France and have five daughters. Her second novel, The Breakdown is out now.

Follow B A on Twitter @BAParisAuthor

Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

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