It took me over a week to read the first 150 pages of this book. Then I read the last half in an evening. While it took a while for the story to really get off the ground, the back half of the book was truly addictive and I couldn’t stop reading. Even when I should have been asleep.
From the beginning, we know things have gone horribly wrong for our narrator, who has been apartment sitting in the most illustrious residence in New York City. The Bartholomew is insanely famous, having been the home of countless celebrities over the decades. When recently unemployed Jules stumbles across an opportunity to live in the glamorous building while she gets back on her feet, and actually get paid a thousand dollars a week to do so, it’s too good a chance to pass up. But the Bartholomew isn’t what it seems, and the learning the truth behind the famous gargoyled facade could prove dangerous. Or even fatal.
“Every so often, life offers you a reset button. When it does, you need to press it as hard as you can.”
As I said, we know from the first page that this gig didn’t work out so well for Jules. A mere six days into her stay, she has been hit by a car while fleeing the building, and she begs not to be sent back. From there we go back in time, seeing Jules first acquire the job of a lifetime and then attempt to settle into her new, if temporary, life. Because of the way the story begins, we know from the start that there’s something shady about the Bartholomew. I immediately had Rosemary’s Baby vibes (which was one of the few books I’ve actually hated), minus the impending motherhood. Which made the first half of the book feel very derivative to me, resulting in waning interest and oft-rolling eyes. However, the big twist was actually unexpected, and I really appreciated the change in direction. The twist actually made me appreciate the preceding pages a tiny bit more in hindsight.
“Never take anything you haven’t earned, my father used to say. You always end up paying for it one way or another.”
Besides the awkward pacing, which made this book feel far longer than it was in actuality, I had issues with the characters. On the surface, the cast was nicely varied, and the protagonist was the kind of down-on-her-luck character that is easily sympathetic. But only on the surface. There were so many ways in which Jules was relatable, and I should have liked her. But she and the rest of the characters ended up feeling two-dimensional for reasons I can’t quite verbalize. It was almost as if the Bartholomew was a dollhouse, and Sager was wielding the characters like dolls instead of letting them live and breathe on their own. The building itself felt more alive than any of its inhabitants. However, I did connect with Sager’s writing enough to give his stuff another shot next time I’m in the mood for something suspenseful. There were a couple of gems hidden in his prose.
There’s definitely an audience for this book, but I am not part of it. While I enjoyed the final twists and can appreciate what Sager accomplished by taking a tired, well-worn trope and turning it on its head, the majority of the book just wasn’t for me. It’s not something I’ll be rereading, though I’m excited to pass my copy along to a friend who is a big fan of the mystery/thriller genre. I really think she’s going to love it.
You can purchase a copy of the book here, with free shipping worldwide!