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 facade 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.
TW: mention of suicide, an instance of self-harm
After his spectacular debut (Final Girls) Riley Sager quickly became an author I knew I needed to look out for, and his sophomore novel (The Last Time I Lied) further cemented my love for him. There’s something about Sager’s books that always keeps me fully invested, ready to look for clues and figure them out with the character(s), and yet unable to put them together before they themselves do. That’s exactly what a good thriller should accomplish, and what Sager’s books always manage. His works always catch me off guard; no matter how high my expectations have been, they well exceed them, making me curious for his future books.
It’s probably a surprising comparison, but I’ve definitely seen similarities between how romance and mystery/thriller novels are treated. It feels as though them following a main plot – a couple getting together, or a mystery being solved – makes people assume that these books cannot excel in other areas. Truth to be told, yes, sometimes that’s the case – I’ve seen examples of thriller authors concentrating too strongly on the plot, while neglecting the characters – but it’s not the norm, and Lock Every Door illustrates this beautifully.
In fact, one of the best things about Sager is his ability to create vivid characters who are practically jumping off the page. Being the main character, Jules was the most fleshed out person in Lock Every Door, and definitely my favorite. In most mysteries and thrillers, the protagonist has to make a certain amount of bad decisions for the plot to work, which was the case in Lock Every Door. But there is a difference between bad decisions and dumb decisions and Jules never crossed into the latter category – all her decisions felt understandable and genuine.
But Jules wasn’t the sole well-rounded character, the supporting cast was incredible as well. We have a pretty big cast here, and yet everyone was easy to remember and to tell apart from the others. It’s such a difficult thing, building a personality from a few lines, from a few appearances, but Sager definitely succeeded here.
Going to back to Jules for a moment, I was really pleased that we had a poor main character. I frequently find myself being frustrated over most characters being middle class, or upper middle class folk. It’d be nice if the world was like that, all of us living well above the poverty line, but that’s hardly the case, and I’m thankful that was shown here. The discussions surrounding poverty rang genuine and thoughtful, as opposed to condescending, which I really appreciated.
“I’m sure some would say it’s my own damn fault. That it was my responsibility to build an emergency fund. At least three months’ salary, the experts say. I would love to backhand whoever came up with that number. They clearly never had a job with take-home pay that barely covers rent, food, and utilities.”
With that, we finally arrive to the plot of the novel, which was just as incredible as the rest of it. I’ll admit that I had absolutely no idea what was going on, and I was – still am – shocked by the revelations at the end. While it is a bit over the top, which I’ve seen some people criticize (that’s valid, by the way, feeling that way!), I delighted in it all. It wasn’t only unexpected, but also unique and gritty – exactly what I want a thriller’s conclusion to be. The build up to the ending was phenomenal as well: slightly creepy, but always with little breaks to take you out of the gloomy atmosphere.
Overall, Lock Every Door is an incredible thriller that I cannot recommend enough. Is it my favorite by the author? No, that spot is reserved for The Last I Time I Lied, but it’s nonetheless exceptionally good.
What do you think about poverty in fiction? Is it represented enough? Is it represented well? Do you enjoy mystery and/or thriller novels? Have you had the chance to read Lock Every Door, or something else by Sager?