Bring Me Back
Behind Closed Doors, the début novel from British author B.A. Paris, was one of my top reads of 2016, so I was pleased to see her third novel entitled Bring Me Back up for review. I snapped it up, fully expecting another fast-paced, twisty, super engrossing thriller, but I got something completely different.
Layla and Finn are driving through the French countryside when Layla falls asleep in the car, and Finn stops for gas along the way. He hurries inside the gas station to pay, but when he returns to the car, Layla is missing. An understandably stunned Finn searches for his missing fiancée for a while before hurrying off in search of help, but none of it does any good. Layla is gone without a trace.
Ten years later, most people think Finn has moved on from the terrible tragedy of Layla’s strange disappearance. He works as a financial advisor and is engaged to Ellen who happens to be Layla’s sister. The two of them seem blissfully happy, and if Finn occasionally wonders what really happened to Layla all those years ago, surely no one would fault him for it.
One afternoon not long before his wedding, Finn returns to the home he shares with Ellen to find her seated on the sofa with a tiny Russian doll in her hand. It’s a toy that holds a great deal of significance for Ellen and Layla, as such a doll played a pivotal, if complicated, role in the relationship between the sisters. Ellen is convinced that Layla herself left the doll for her to find. At first, Finn dismisses her theory, chalking it up to a prank or even a communication from the person responsible for Layla’s disappearance, but as days go by and more and more Russian dolls are left around the house, he is forced to face the fact that Layla just might be back in his life. Now all he has to do is figure out what she’s hoping to accomplish and where she’s been for the past decade.
The description sounds pretty great, right? Unfortunately, the execution really doesn’t work. Most of the story is told in first person from Finn’s point of view, but there are a few chapters from Layla’s perspective thrown in for good measure. Finn’s chapters are fine, if you don’t mind hating the person you’re reading about. Layla’s chapters, on the other hand, are almost impossible to take seriously. Her motives are really hard to figure out, and so the reader doesn’t know how to feel about the information she’s divulging. There were times I got the impression I was supposed to be afraid of her, but her thoughts and behavior are completely over the top and I found myself rolling my eyes instead.
The characters are constantly behaving in overly risky ways. There were so many occasions I wanted to shake them into acting like functional adults instead of whiny, spoiled brats. No one ever stops to think about the consequences of their ridiculous actions. They just do something stupid and then complain about it when things turn out badly for them. I’m all for characters being flawed, but I do expect someone to have at least a bit of sense.
There’s a huge twist toward the end of the story, and, although it was pretty shocking, I couldn’t bring myself to care about it all that much. I was just glad to be done with the book so I could move on to something more satisfying.
Bring Me Back is not a book I can recommend. The writing feels sloppy and the plot is laughable in places, and not even its surprise ending could salvage it enough to make it something I consider a positive reading experience. There are a ton of great novels of psychological suspense out there. Give this one a pass and pick up one of those instead.