Lock Every Door by Riley Sager is a mystery thriller novel about a young woman named Jules who recently has her life turned upside down. With no job and no place to live, she feels desperate to find some cash in order to get her life back on track. After seeing an ad for an apartment in her dream building, The Bartholomew, she takes a chance and goes for it. While checking out the place, she learns that the building managers are searching for a sitter for an open apartment for the next three months. Even though it has some severely strict rules, the gig pays a thousand bucks a week. Realising this is a once in a lifetime opportunity, she accepts the offer right off the bat. Upon moving in and getting somewhat situated, a young girl disappears, making Jules question the building’s long history and its dwellers. The more she gets to know them, the more she recognises that they aren’t exactly what they seem to be, and the spoopiness that has followed The Bartholomew over the decades may not just be tall tales after all.
Riley Sager’s books have been a bit of a hit or miss for me overall. They all have excellent suspense and tension, with pacing that fluctuates from one title to the next, and some freaky shit that tends to be unlike other narratives in the genre. My favourite that he’s written is The Last Time I Lied, and because of that one novel, I always tend to give him the benefit of the doubt. Even though most of his stuff is pretty enjoyable, they almost always have missing ingredients that keep them from being big wowzers overall, and it’s starting to get frustrating.
Lock Every Door had a very good first half. Instantly from chapter one, the reader gets hooked by the mystery of whatever the hell is going on. Jules is shown to be in some sort of clandestine trauma and then a series of flashbacks slowly explain the situation and circumstance, moving towards the present time. It was equal parts cryptic, chilling, and creepy. There was even a sort of locked-room element to the enigma of The Bartholomew that makes the reader morbidly curious about its long, dark history. Morsels of information pertaining to Jules as a person is sporadically placed in-between sections of her snooping around the building and trying to meet-and-greet tenants. The balance of it all was excellent. Yet, after reaching the halfway point, I started to feel bored and the tension that kept me glued to the pages at first began to dwindle away.
I take a deep breath, trying to collect my thoughts. But they’re an unruly, unreliable bunch. My skull feels like a snow globe recently shaken, swirling with important bits of information that have yet to land. And I can’t grasp”
Sager’s writing is rather great. It flows marvellously and implements clever quips and formatting to make the non-linear aspects feel comfortable and natural. But the dude can be terrible at maintaining a decent pace from beginning to end. I had this problem in Final Girls, his first novel. The book began to drag on and on with some repetitive traits that started to create a disconnect between me and Jules. When revelations about spoilery things I won’t mention started to occur, I was on the borderline of not caring. That is not a good mindset to have when reading suspense and mystery thrillers.
Aside from the pacing, I also vehemently disliked most of the side characters. So many of them are built to be unlikeable as they are wealthy assholes who are quite reserved, entitled, and anti-social. On top of that, they are given such little backgrounds or any level of depth that their superficiality transcended their personas and into their placement in the narrative. They could all have been the same person and I would not have cared. There was nothing there for me to formulate a genuine attachment to, positive or negative. You could tell they were all plot devices to one extent or another, and nothing more, and it made the book feel empty and immensely unbelievable.
Speaking of farfetched, then there was the huge twist. I’ll openly admit that I tried to guess what it was going to be. Having read Sager’s previous works, I was incredibly confident that I would solve the mystery before getting to the climax. I was able to do this with Final Girls and even The Last Time I Lied to an extent. However, here in Lock Every Door, it was so beyond outrageous that I laughed out loud when it finally happened. Actually, I believe I said, “What the godawful fuck?” Then I laughed. It felt like it came out of left field. But this can also be attributed to how removed I had become with the story by this point.
Even though there was so many things that irked me about Lock Every Door, I can’t deny that it was fast-paced, and it had hooked me pretty damn well for the first half at least. As mentioned, Sager is a talented writer and has an uncanny ability to sink readers into the pages of his books. They just aren’t always the most satisfying when the last page is flipped. As a whole, I think Lock Every Door is about as average as a thriller can get. Others may enjoy this novel far more than I did, and some may hate it much more. It’s one of those situations where taste will be the biggest mitigating factor here. Personally, it was a big disappointment to me, but not one I regret by far. If you’ve read his other works and have found pleasure in them, then you may like this one too. Just know that it’s not his best book.
3 gargoyles outta 5.