Rated Reads

The Breakdown

by B.A. Paris

Rated: Mild

On a very rainy night, Cass drives home to her comfortable cottage in a quiet hamlet. She promises her husband she won’t take the isolated road that could work as a good shortcut in better weather, but traffic leads her to go ahead and do it. When she’s nearly home, she sees a car pulled off to the side, a woman sitting in the driver’s seat. She pulls in front of the car and stops, but the woman never flashes her lights or does anything to try to hail her, so Cass decides to drive on home — nowadays, there are stories of all kinds of things carjackers or robbers, etc., will do to trick unsuspecting Good Samaritans into getting out of their cars.

The next morning, Cass is devastated to learn that the woman was brutally murdered in her car, likely not long after she saw her sitting there. And, even worse, it’s a woman she was just starting to get to know.

Cass begins getting blocked phone calls at home with silence at the other end. She is sure the killer is stalking her and making the calls. And then she starts forgetting things: that she was supposed to buy a gift for a friend on behalf of a group of co-workers; that her husband was headed out of town for a business trip; that she had invited friends over for dinner. Combined with the phone calls and the murder, she’s starting to feel unhinged. Her biggest fear may be coming to pass: that she’s showing the signs of early-onset dementia, which plagued her late mother from her 40s.

As time goes on and she continues to feel sure she’s being stalked, that her forgetfulness may be serious, her life spirals out of her control.

The Breakdown is one of those stories in which readers don’t know whether the main character is being gaslighted or if she really is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. Either is a scary proposition. And if she is being gaslighted, who is doing it? The questions begun to be answered near the end, where it’s hard to put down the book as it all comes together.

Rated: Mild. There is almost no language, perhaps a couple of instances of mild profanity. There is no sexual material, only allusions to sexual relationships. Violence is limited to brief talk about how the murder was committed.

* I received an advance reader’s e-copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

— Reviewed by Cathy Carmode Lim

Cathy Carmode Lim has been reviewing books for newspapers for about 20 years, two of which she was a book page editor. She founded Rated Reads in January 2008.

Comments are closed.