Published by St. Martin's Press on August 9th 2016
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Everyone knows a couple like Jack and Grace: he has looks and wealth, she has charm and elegance. You'd like to get to know Grace better. But it's difficult, because you realize Jack and Grace are never apart. Some might call this true love.
Picture this: a dinner party at their perfect home, the conversation and wine flowing. They appear to be in their element while entertaining. And Grace's friends are eager to reciprocate with lunch the following week. Grace wants to go, but knows she never will. Her friends call—so why doesn't Grace ever answer the phone? And how can she cook such elaborate meals but remain so slim?
And why are there bars on one of the bedroom windows?
The perfect marriage? Or the perfect lie?
Ahead there be spoilers……
I can’t really talk about my feelings for this book without spoiling some of it, so this is a real, get-out-if-you’re-going-to-read-this warning…..
Ok. If you’re still here, then here we go.
The entire time I was reading this, I was really creeped out. In the beginning, there’s nothing specific you can point to, but the relationship between Jack and Grace is just off. On the surface, they’re perfect. Both stunningly beautiful, completely in love with each other, wealthy, Jack is a lawyer specializing in domestic violence cases (he defends the women who kill or hurt their abusers), and he’s never lost a case. Grace doesn’t have a job, she just makes the perfect home for Jack. Which is the first red flag. They don’t have children. There seems to be no reason for her to have quit her job when they got married. As I kept reading, that general feeling of something crawling up my spine increased, all the way through to the end.
But then… Then I finished. And in thinking about the book later, I realized it just didn’t work. None of it worked. What we come to find out is that Grace has quit her job and stays home now because Jack is holding her prisoner in their home. She lives in a tiny little room in the enormous house, furnished with nothing but a bare mattress and a… No, actually I think that’s it. He doesn’t rape her, in fact just the thought of sex repulses him. He doesn’t beat her. He doesn’t make her wait on him, if anything he waits on her since she’s not allowed out of her room. He just…. keeps her prisoner. Because keeping someone prisoner, being in complete control of another person, is fascinating to him.
But Grace isn’t his ultimate goal. See, Grace has a much younger sister, named Millie, who has Down’s Syndrome. Millie is Jack’s ultimate goal because her Down’s Syndrome makes her much more susceptible to fear and intimidation, which is what he really wants. Someone to completely fear him. Millie is where much of this book fell apart.
Before their wedding, Jack was the perfect boyfriend. (Minus that whole sex-repulses-me thing). But as soon as they were married, literally on their wedding night, Grace learned that he was not the man she thought he was. As soon as they’re ensconced in their hotel room in Thailand, he lays it all out for her. He’s going to keep her prisoner from that very moment, and she’s going to let him, or he won’t let her see Millie anymore. But he also tells her, right then, that Millie is his ultimate goal, and that he’s determined to keep Millie prisoner so he can scare her. So why would Grace agree to this? He took her passport and ID and left the hotel room. Grace was convinced that she’d been locked in the hotel room, so she didn’t try to leave. Think about that. She was convinced she’d just been locked INSIDE her hotel room. Once she figured out that she could leave (not until the next morning) she went downstairs and tried to get the hotel clerk to call the embassy because she needed to get home and didn’t have her passport. The clerk asked her where she lost in, and instead of saying “Somewhere between the airport and the hotel” or “I was mugged yesterday”, she stutters and fumbles around with “Oh, uh, my new husband took it and locked me in the hotel room”. When it is pointed out to her that you can’t get locked inside a hotel room, she said that she had just figured that out. But swore that her husband had been gone for a few hours with her passport and they had to call the embassy. Naturally Jack came back then and patted her on the head and made some condescending remarks about her “medication” to the hotel staff and took her back upstairs to their room. Where he did lock her out on the balcony for the next several hours while he went sightseeing.
The whole book was like this. Jack kept telling Grace that if she tried to escape he’d have Millie locked in an asylum. That was how he controlled her. What asylum? This book takes place in 2016 London. In what version of 2016 London could he have his sister-in-law sent to an “asylum” just because he felt like it? Grace has legal custody of Millie, but their parents are still alive. Plus Millie has spent the last seven years living at a school nearby, the entire staff of which is well aware of how well Millie does. She’s extremely high-functioning. In fact, she’s the only one in the book who figures out that Grace is in trouble and tries to help her.
At one point Grace fakes some “woman trouble” and manages to get Jack to bring in a doctor to check her out. But even after being left alone with the doctor and laying out everything that’s been going on, nothing happens to help her because the doctor had been forewarned by Jack that she might say something outlandish. Seriously. Think about that. How did that conversation go? “Oh, hello, doctor I’ve never met. I’m having you come to my house to check out my wife who says she’s sick. Just be aware, she might spew some nonsense about being held prisoner here at the house but just ignore her. See, here’s a piece of paper signed by a hotel manager in Thailand stating that he’s seen her acting nuts, so clearly she’s off her rocker.” “Oh, ok, husband of my brand new patient. I’ll certainly ignore anything Grace tells me because you and a Thai hotel manager told me to. No worries.” Again, this is 2016 London.
And their entire group of friends were just as bad. And, yes, there’s a fairly large group of them because Jack is such a popular lawyer. He and Grace throw dinner parties, attend dinner parties, go to lunches and on outings together. Yet Grace can’t get away or alert anyone to her predicament. Because Jack forces her to carry a completely empty purse with her so she doesn’t even have a pen and watches her dress so she can’t sneak something by him. Ok. Why doesn’t she stand up at a dinner party and announce that she’s been trying to leave Jack but he’s been threatening her? Even if every single person there thinks she’s full of shit, at the bare minimum they’d offer to have her stay the night with them and away from Jack to let her calm down. Who wouldn’t do that at the very least? Stand up and throw a fit. But, no. She doesn’t. She just attends these dinner parties then goes home to her tiny little room prison.
And the house. It has remote controlled steel shutters on every window and a dungeon built into the basement. No one thinks this is strange? The builder never remarked on it or said anything about it to anyone?
I’ve seen so many rave reviews for this one, I had really high hopes for it. It’s turning toward fall, and while the days are still hot, the mornings and evenings are getting cool. This is exactly the time of year I love to read creepy, psychological thrillers. Unfortunately, this one just wasn’t it. The writing was lovely, the narration was wonderful, but the story just fell apart under the tiniest bit of scrutiny.