Book Review: LOCK EVERY DOOR by Riley Sager

Riley Sager’s Lock Every Door is a gothic suspense - amateur detective - horror mash-up that shares many of the winning qualities that have made Mr. Sager’s crime fiction amongst the most highly anticipated of the season!

The distinctive, color-saturated, book jacket (this time, in a bold shade of pink)? Check.

A gothic tone, and highly atmospheric, horror-influenced setting (the birdcage-like elevator, slowly descending to the dank, crypt and maze-like corridors of the Bartholomew’s basement)? Check.

Suspense? Absolutely. And the countdown structure of many of the chapters in Lock Every Door (“Six Days Earlier”, “Five Days Earlier”, “Four Days Earlier”, and so on) only adds to an ever-increasing sense of paranoia and dread.

Lock Every Door’s protagonist is twenty-five year old Jules Larson, a sympathetic and resilient character, originally from Pennsylvania coal country. When Jules was seventeen, her sister went missing; when she was nineteen, both of her parents died under terrible circumstances. When we first meet Jules, she is down on her luck, and sleeping on a friend’s Manhattan apartment couch. She answers an ad for an apartment sitter that turns out to be at one of Manhattan’s most storied, (fictional) buildings. Opened in January of 1919, and only thirteen stories tall, The Bartholomew (St. Bart’s for short) has a gothic, cathedral-like facade, and is situated on Central Park West, one of Manhattan’s most exclusive streets. The apartment that Jules would be caring for late autumn through the winter holiday season turns out to be a “fantasy New York City home”, a luxurious dwelling with expansive, floor-to-ceiling views of Central Park. If that weren’t enough, Jules would earn a much-needed, and generous salary for her apartment sitting. There are just a few, unusual rules that Jules must follow regarding the gilded, historic building, and its inhabitants. One such rule is that she must never spend a night away from the apartment in her care. Despite the restrictive requirements, Jules accepts the terms of what still seems to be a dream job.

What is it that people say about something being too good to be true?

Something is very amiss at The Bartholomew.

The residents are generally more private and secretive than one would expect. And Jules gradually learns that there are other apartment sitters residing in the building, but that they, too, are not forthcoming about St. Bart’s. By passing notes via an old “dumbwaiter”, away from the prying eyes and ears of the mysterious, “permanent” residents, Jules does befriend Ingrid Gallagher, an apartment sitter in the home immediately beneath her own. When Ingrid seemingly moves out without a trace in the middle of the night, the suspicions that Jules has had about The Bartholomew intensify, and she begins to ask additional, (unwanted?) questions. Jules discovers that a lot of the details, about not only the past and present inhabitants, but also the history of The Bartholomew itself, just don’t add up. The more Jules investigates - including in a number of supremely, suspenseful chapters - the creepier and more ominous the plot and atmosphere, and the closer Jules gets to answers……..and, possibly, to danger.

In Lock Every Door, Riley Sager manages to provide, not only atmospheric, entertaining, and distinctly horror-influenced, gothic suspense, but also makes a metaphorical, social statement about economic disparity, and about a sense of entitlement among the super-rich, as well as the morally corrupt ways the economically-privileged sometimes get there, and stay there.

I must admit, I was convinced that the plot was building to a very specific, next-level twist that I had in mind, that would reveal itself at the very end of the novel. While the positively chilling resolution to The Bartholomew’s apparent malevolence did push the bounds of reality a bit, and was different from the direction I had predicted, it was indeed an ending worthy of an author who is, by all accounts, an aficionado of the horror genre, whether expressed in movies or in books. Writer Ira Levin (Rosemary’s Baby, The Stepford Wives, among others), to whom Lock Every Door is dedicated, may just be looking down on Mr. Sager with a mischievous grin.

Best for Crime Fiction Readers:

  • Who enjoy crime fiction and mysteries with a tone of gothic suspense.

  • Who love mysteries and crime fiction set in New York City!

  • Who don’t mind, or enjoy, fairly dark, horror-influenced, crime fiction.

  • Who appreciate crime fiction and mysteries featuring an amateur detective.

Pages: 384 (Hardcover)

Publisher’s Description:

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.

About the Author:

Riley Sager is the award-winning pseudonym of a former journalist, editor and graphic designer who previously published mysteries under his real name.

Now a full-time author, Riley's first thriller, FINAL GIRLS, became a national and international bestseller and was called "the first great thriller of 2017" by Stephen King. Translation rights have been sold in more than two dozen countries and a film version is being developed by Universal Pictures.

Riley's second book, THE LAST TIME I LIED, was published in 2018 and became an instant New York Times bestseller. It was inspired by the classic novel and film "Picnic at Hanging Rock" and one horrible week Riley spent at summer camp when he was ten. A television adaptation is being developed by Amazon Studios.

His latest book, LOCK EVERY DOOR, is inspired by a lifelong fascination with the grand apartment buildings on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

A native of Pennsylvania, Riley now lives in Princeton, New Jersey. When he's not writing, he enjoys reading, cooking and going to the movies as much as possible. His favorite film is "Rear Window." Or maybe "Jaws." But probably, if he's being honest, "Mary Poppins."

Edit: It was announced July 2, 2019, that an adaptation of Lock Every Door is in development with Paramount Television and Anonymous Content. Former True Blood executive producer and showrunner, Brian Buckner, will executive produce, as well as pen the adaptation.

MINM Overall Rating of the Book, Lock Every Door: 4.5/5 Stars