Because I decided that I’m really not ready to write a police procedural (mainly because I really don’t know enough about – erm – police procedural) I’ve switched my reading, focussing more on psychological thrillers. I scanned my bookshelf and pulled out the massively successful Behind Closed Doors, by B.A Paris.
I’m going through what I learnt from the book – both positive and potentially negative – and jumble it all together.
First off, this is a hugely successful book. A writer has two choices with this type of book (okay, there are probably more, but I’m just thinking of two): be a bit bitter and question why this book is any better than the masterpiece on my laptop, or consider the elements that made it successful, and potentially learn from them. I’d accept that previously I may have gone with the first option, but now my only focus is to write brilliant books, and so I’m all signed up to the second option. In fact, I admire and respect and (in a non-creepy way) idolise the successful writers, whether I love their books or not.
Jack is a rich and handsome lawyer who – to the outside world – is the perfect depiction of a wonderful, successful man. He is the type of guy your mum will annoyingly compare you to. Behind closed doors, Jack is a psychopath who keeps his wife, Grace, a prisoner.
This theme draws me in. What you see in the outside world could be an illusion. That lovely person you speak to in the office (who maybe brings in cakes on Friday), or who you chat to in the pub (who maybe buys you a pint when you don’t ask), could really just be playing a game; they could merely be morphing into the type of character society expects them to be. And so, what you see could basically be bullshit. What is important is the real person, the person you’d find behind closed doors. That person could be just like they depict in the big world. Or they could be a monster.
Naturally, this is a scary concept.
Adding to this scary concept is the fact that Jack is just a whole new layer of psychopath. There are no redeeming features. He makes Hannibal Lector seem like your friendly postman.
The book is told from the POV of his captive, his wife, Grace. She decides to play his game. She pretends to submit to his demands, to stop fighting back. But really she is playing a game of chess, luring Jack in, biding her time. It is good that Grace doesn’t play the victim, that she doesn’t feel overly sorry for herself, that she doesn’t crumble. Grace is a strong character, fighting back against torrid circumstances and monumental odds.
The book naturally takes a dripping tap approach. This can be quite difficult for the reader, because the scenes are often passive and repetitive. The writing is overly simplistic and – sorry – a bit dull for me.
The concept is also simplistic and not massively original. I would have found it more intriguing if the wife was the monster, or if the capture wasn’t a caricature of a successful man.
Behind Closed Doors did give me plenty of inspiration. I will definitely learn from it. Did it blow me away? No. Excitingly, there is an element of me which just knows – maybe it will be way down the line – that I can do better than this.