This book review is for Lock Every Door by Riley Sager, published in 2019 by Dutton Books, and categorized as a thriller/suspense with horror elements. I noted that this book is often billed a nod to Rosemary’s Baby, which I am not familiar with, but I thought it was important to keep this in the back of my mind. Nevertheless, this book currently has an average rating of 3.9 stars on Goodreads. It was a nominee for best thriller/mystery on the Goodreads Choice Awards in 2019.
No visitors. No nights spent away from the apartment. No disturbing the other residents, all of whom are rich or famous or both. These are the only rules for Jules Larsen’s new job as an apartment sitter at the Bartholomew, one of Manhattan’s most high-profile and mysterious buildings. Recently heartbroken and just plain broke, Jules is taken in by the splendor of her surroundings and accepts the terms, ready to leave her past life behind.
As she gets to know the residents and staff of the Bartholomew, Jules finds herself drawn to fellow apartment sitter Ingrid, who comfortingly, disturbingly reminds her of the sister she lost eight years ago. When Ingrid confides that the Bartholomew is not what it seems and the dark history hidden beneath its gleaming façade is starting to frighten her, Jules brushes it off as a harmless ghost story—until the next day, when Ingrid disappears.
Searching for the truth about Ingrid’s disappearance, Jules digs deeper into the Bartholomew’s dark past and into the secrets kept within its walls. Her discovery that Ingrid is not the first apartment sitter to go missing at the Bartholomew pits Jules against the clock as she races to unmask a killer, expose the building’s hidden past, and escape the Bartholomew before her temporary status becomes permanent.
My No Spoils Summary: Having lost both her job and her boyfriend, Jules Larsen answers a job posting for an apartment sitter for an upscale apartment in The Bartholomew after the death of its occupant. The apartments have a mysterious history and a spooky aura. Jules meets a neighbor and she vanishes out of no where, so she spends a while trying to figure out where she went. The span of the book is just a couple days. Reader is trying to find out why Jules was hospitalized at the very start of the book, the rest is a flashback.
Review: This book currently stands at 3.9 stars on Goodreads. I gave it 2.5⭐️ It’s my first Sager, and I found it a bit dry and predictable🙈 it’s a thriller/suspense novel, but most of it is just the main character flailing around these creepy apartments ignoring every obvious red flag, even when they’re explicitly stated to her by a close friend. There are hints of the paranormal, which hardly ever are relevant in modern thrillers anymore, but really it’s exactly what you can pick up on. The writing is fine, although I rolled my eyes a lot at some of the dialogue that was delivered like a soap opera scene.
One of my main points of contention is the main character, Jules. The author spends some time developing her backstory as to (assumedly) make us care about her. Typically, she is an orphan. Surprisingly, her sister was possibly abducted when they were young; either way, she disappeared and didn’t come back. She carries that pain and routinely mentions it. Now, she finds her boyfriend with another woman after being fired from her job. She collects all her memories and burns them dramatically, flees to her friend’s home and then finds this job ad that is clearly screaming a thousand possible red flags but I admit that in her position of not having money, being upset about the breakup and losing job, and not wanting to be a burden, it makes sense that she took up the offer. That’s the underlying point — she was vulnerable, maybe not so much as those completely without a support system or options, but she nonetheless felt like this was the right choice. Despite this, her close friend repeatedly tells her that it sounds fishy and offers her different options with no strings attached. Jules doesn’t listen, not because she’s headstrong, but because she’s just kind of in this weird headspace I think. When you’re at this crossroads and you feel like a loser, it’s kind of hard to shack up at your friend’s house who is in a good relationship and has employment. I get it.
Spoilers past this point. ⤵️
The apartments are basically a front for rich people to be supplied needed organs illegally. A doctor living in has a secret, mad-scientist style lair for his organ harvesting. They prey on vulnerables and the unemployed by offering up huge money and a nice cozy apartment, only to be victims of organ snatching. Sadly, a handful of the characters we meet in the short few days covered in this book are in on the scheme and despite being kind at face value, they’re in it for the organs…. and they know exactly the cost they are paying for this treatment.
Jules meets an author who just so happens to be staying in the apartments at the same time she is. This author has been mentioned in this book in Jules narratives about her past life and sister who went missing. She’s rude, but they end up clicking. Speaking of clicking, Jules also meets a neighbor who is eccentric but desperate to hang out. She disappears in the night and leaves Jules a gun supposedly. Despite having the creeps and only knowing this girl for a very short period (not even the cops take her seriously), she is hell-bent on going around and digging her nose into everyone’s business, which is, like, the number one rule they have…. mind your business. It’s like watching one of those scary movies where the main character walks straight into their problems because they either ignore their intuition or they just don’t have any.
I’m not victim blaming of course. It’s noble that she is attempting to find her neighbor who she believes may have disappeared for bad reasons, not just moving out… could this be a nod to her disappeared sister from childhood? Probably. It’s clear as day that was included just to have some symbolism here… and I’m not amused really. Oh, should I also mention that fire is a clear recurring theme as well? In the way that’s so on the nose that you don’t have to even try to find underlying meanings.
Predictably, Jules is caught up in it but escapes. Brings down the establishment, literally and figuratively.
Issues that would prevent me from suggesting this book to others are 1) just boring and unnecessary backstory of Jules that didn’t lead to caring for the character at all, it was just really for the plot and probably to fill pages; 2) unrealistic dialogue and situations that aren’t just a part of fiction; 3) boring Scooby Doo “I would’ve gotten away with it too” style ending. Too much direct telling, not showing. May be related the short amount of time covered in the book, but that isn’t really an excuse for lack of meaningful content in my opinion.
I am not saying that this book wasn’t for me because it was unrealistic — a lot of thrillers/mysteries/suspense books ARE unrealistic because they are based on primal fears and those who exploit it in unimaginable ways. I have no problem with suspending reality in most cases; however, I just didn’t think this one did it for me in the way that others in this genre do.
Pros: Genuinely cool idea/homage, decent writing skills. Nice cover, and may appeal to thriller/horror fans. I think that some points of the book were actually pretty strong and kept me motivated to read. I liked the descriptions of the Bartholomew, it was easily pictured and the setting was interesting.
CW: missing family member, trafficking/abduction, murder, terminal illness, cheating spouse.