Desert Isle Keeper
Behind the Red Door
It’s so easy to become overwhelmed by the wide array of thrillers released each month, so I’m here to tell you about one of the best I’ve read this summer. Behind the Red Door is Megan Collins’ second novel, and I was utterly blown away by its depth and complexity. I was completely entranced from beginning to end, and that’s not praise I give lightly.
Fern Douglas doesn’t return to New Hampshire very often. Her childhood was unconventional to say the least, so once she graduated high school, she left home, and only returns on rare occasions. Now though, her father is moving to Florida, and he needs Fern’s help with all the packing and organizing that goes into such a big move. With a mixture of resignation and trepidation, Fern returns to her childhood home, completely unprepared for what she’ll find when she arrives.
The disappearance of Astrid Sullivan was a big deal when it first happened twenty years earlier, but Fern is completely unaware of Astrid’s existence until a news story flashes across the television the night before she leaves for New Hampshire. It seems that Astrid, who was abducted, held captive, and eventually returned as a child, has gone missing once again, and the police are wondering if her kidnapper, who was never caught, has struck again. As soon as she sees Astrid’s photograph, Fern becomes convinced she has personal knowledge of the case. Her memories are unclear, but something about her seems familiar, and Fern is determined to understand why. Her husband thinks it’s because of all the news coverage the original disappearance received, but Fern is sure there’s something more complex and possibly even sinister going on.
Once she arrives at her father’s home, just over an hour from where Astrid first disappeared, Fern buys a copy of Astrid’s recently published memoir. As she reads the account of Astrid’s harrowing experience, she becomes even more convinced that she once knew Astrid well. She tries to talk to her father about her concerns, but the conversation goes nowhere. Fern even visits the police department in hopes of talking to the original detective on Astrid’s case, but as one might imagine, she’s not taken seriously.
There’s so much more I want to say about this super dark, twisty story, but your reading experience will be so much richer if you discover the book’s secrets for yourself. In her quest to learn what happened to Astrid in both the past and the present, Fern is forced to confront some disturbing truths about her own early life, and what she learns shocked me in more ways than one. I’ve read a lot of thrillers, but I had no idea where the author was going with this story. When I reached the end, I had to go back and read the last couple of chapters again, just to make sure I’d fully grasped the novel’s climax, and that’s something I rarely find it necessary to do.
Fern is such a complex character; she’s not always easy to like, but is someone I found myself cheering for right from the start. She struggles with severe anxiety, and as someone who has battled anxiety of one kind or another for most of my life, I really appreciated the way Ms. Collins depicts the condition. Fern doesn’t always act rationally, so it’s sometimes difficult to trust her interpretation of events, but she’s never portrayed as anything other than a woman doing her best to cope with the difficult truths of her past. Her mental health isn’t used as a plot device. Instead, it’s just one of the many facets that make Fern such a relatable heroine.
Behind the Red Door is not for the faint of heart. There are some troubling things hidden in its pages, things that make for fantastic plot twists, but could be difficult for some readers to stomach. There’s not a ton of physical violence here, but emotional and mental manipulation play a big part in the story. I can’t say more without spoiling things, but if unhealthy relationships aren’t easy for you to read about, you might want to give this one a pass. If, however, you prefer your books at the darker end of the thriller spectrum, I highly recommend you pick up a copy as soon as you can. It’s unlike anything I’ve read recently, and I’m eager to see what else Megan Collins has in store for her readers. After reading this, I’m a devoted fan for sure.