Riley Sager’s suspense novel Lock Every Door (Dutton) features Jules Larsen, a vulnerable, self-esteem-starved twenty-five-year-old. Since her beloved sister’s disappearance four years prior and her parents’ tragic deaths soon after, she has journeyed to Manhattan to pursue big-city dreams. Instead, at the novel’s opening, Jules finds herself without a job, recuperating from a bitter breakup, and desperately broke. Until now.
A vague ad seeking an apartment sitter draws Jules to the historic, luxurious Bartholomew building on Central Park West. Despite her sense of unworthiness and the property manager’s odd rules—never invite visitors inside and never spend the night away—Jules’s soon-to-be-empty bank account convinces her to accept the offer. After all, who could say no to twelve-thousand dollars for a three-month stay?
Within twenty-four hours of moving in, Jules grows uneasy. She detects a whispery movement near her bedroom as she wakes each morning. Even the floral wallpaper takes on the sinister appearance of eyes spying on her. It isn’t until she meets Ingrid, a friendly, energetic young apartment sitter living directly below her, that Jules’s malaise lightens.
But only briefly.
When Ingrid allegedly moves out in the middle of the night, Jules suspects foul play. In memory of her own missing sister, she overcomes her introversion and begins a quest to find Ingrid. Over the next ten days, Jules uncovers secrets about the residents of the Bartholomew and their strange proclivities, leading the reader through tunnels of harrowing adventure. Even as the walls close in on her, so to speak, Jules’s greatest weapon is an absolute refusal to be cowed by the conniving forces that surround her.
From the start, the plot simmers with eerie atmosphere and angst. Then, as Jules trips over clue after disturbing clue, the narrative boils over into fast-paced action. Once she glimpses the dangers ahead, readers can’t bear to set this book down.
How does a place become a character in a work of fiction? By interfering with the lives of its inhabitants rather than merely coloring the ambiance. Although Sager excels in developing a complex world within the confines of a twelve-story apartment building, he is an expert at using the space to drive her characters to make risky choices. Disabling a security camera or riding in a rickety dumbwaiter injects pulsating tension into the plot. At moments, Jules literally enters the Bartholomew’s walls in search of answers. Every nook and corner, from a heating vent grate to the elegant elevator cage that travels along the building’s spine, offers ominous forewarning as Jules searches for Ingrid. Over the span of the story, the apartment evolves from glamorous to lurid.
Meanwhile, forays into Central Park and the Natural History Museum anchor the novel in Manhattan and offer welcome contrast with the claustrophobic Bartholomew. A visit to the local homeless shelter provides a colorful foil to Jules’s opulent digs…and a taste of what her life would be like if she abandons her apartment-sitting duties. Sager deftly highlights the entitlement of the wealthy without satire, even when Jules distrusts those living around her.
Intercepted texts and video exchanges between strangers add depth to the narrative in classic epistolary style. The reader greedily studies these artifacts, hunting for clues hidden behind otherwise ordinary words. Jules’s investigation uncovers previous investigations by other tenants who have since gone missing. The domino effect is as dizzying as peering down a vast spiral staircase.
Sager’s use of present tense keeps the reader in the moment, experiencing Jules’s every jolt and twinge, while the staccato sentence structure provides a riveting pace.
If you love thrillers, Lock Every Door offers a delicious puzzle with a satisfying ending. Though never overtly gory, queasy readers should beware. If you enjoy masterful suspense films like “Get Out,” this novel is for you.
Lock Every Door will be available for purchase July 2, 2019.
About Riley Sager
Riley Sager is the pseudonym of a former journalist, editor and graphic designer.
Now a full-time writer, Riley is the author of Final Girls, an international bestseller that has been published in 25 languages, and the New York Times bestseller The Last Time I Lied. His latest book, Lock Every Door, will be published in July.
A native of Pennsylvania, Riley now lives in Princeton, New Jersey.