Cass should be happy. She has the summer off from her teaching job. She has several friends, including Rebecca who has been her friend since childhood and her loving, doting husband Matt. However, she is wracked with guilt because a woman was murdered and she is probably the last person to see her alive. Her car was parked on this quiet country back road and Cass stopped in case she needed help, but the woman did not get out, so Cass drove away. When she learns the next day the woman was murdered, she wonders whether she could have prevented it. She is also afraid she may have been seen by the murderer.
So when she starts getting phone calls from someone who does not say a word, she thinks it might be the killer. This fear compounds other anxieties caused by her increasing forgetfulness. Her mother suffered from Early Onset Dementia, could it be happening to her?
The title, The Breakdown, is clever because there are so many breakdowns here. Did the murdered woman’s car break down? Is Cass suffering a breakdown? Will her marriage break down? What about her friendships as she withdraws more and more from people?
The Breakdown is B. A. Paris’ second book and continues that same headlong suspense that was a characteristic of her first Behind Closed Doors. It has that same can’t-put-it-down quality without the queasy stomach-churning disgust for the constant abuse of her first book. Paris is good at setting up a good, suspenseful situation.
Paris writes in the present tense so we are not assured of any happy ending…no comfortable recounting from a safe and comfy place. However, by the third chapter, I was pretty sure this was some sort of gaslighting story though who was not immediately evident. Most gaslighting stories, we know pretty quickly who is doing it and it’s all about the victim realizing what is happening and getting people to believe her. Paris succeeds in making it unclear who it must be.
I wish happenstance did not play such a big role in the revelation of the plot. However, I like Cass’s subtle playacting and sweet revenge and love it even more that it was a better, more appropriate revenge than she ever imagined. There are several pages of text messages that spell out some of the behind the scenes plotting, though, that went on too long. We got the idea and the step-by-step was unnecessary, especially when Cass finds some of the evidence in her shed to put it together. Paris doesn’t let us “get it” without a play-by-play and that’s too bad. She needs to have more trust in her readers.
I think this is a better book than her first. I applaud her suspenseful pace, but hope she develops more faith in her readers. I would love to see her next book whose main character is less of a meek, easy victim and more of an advocate for herself.
- The Breakdown at St. Martin’s Press | Macmillan
- B. A. Paris author site