Layla is the love of Finn’s life. But on a trip to France, Layla vanishes at a truck stop and is never seen again. Twelve years later, Finn is engaged to Layla’s sister, Ellen. One day, Finn arrives home to find Ellen holding a painted Russian doll, which she says she found on the pavement outside their Simonsbridge home. Finn soon begins receiving more dolls – in the mail and sitting on the stone wall outside their house. The only people who could know the significance of these dolls are Finn and Ellen. It appears Layla is back. And she’s not happy about Finn and Ellen’s engagement.
Bring Me Back is the third page-turning thriller from author B.A. Paris, whose debut domestic malice novel Behind Closed Doors was met with rave reviews and has recently been commissioned for a film. Her second novel, The Breakdown (probably my favourite) was a murder mystery filled with mind games of a ‘gaslight’ variety.
This time, the narrator is investment banker Finn, who straight up tells the reader he hasn’t told the police the whole truth about Layla’s disappearance. He also has a tendency towards violent rages, but has so far managed to control himself. Or has he? Finn becomes concerned his ex-girlfriend Ruby, who works down the road at the local pub, is pretending to be Layla because she’s jealous of his engagement to Ellen. But that doesn’t explain why someone saw Layla at the cottage she shared with Finn in Devon or why Ellen is convinced she saw Layla in Cheltenham.
Part one is told solely from Finn’s point of view, alternating between the past, where he describes his relationship with Layla, and the present. But part two switches between Finn’s point of view and a new surprise point of view character – Layla. But is this really Layla? And if it is, why won’t she reveal herself to Finn and Ellen? And where has she been for the past twelve years? One thing is for sure, Layla, or whoever she is, is testing Finn.
I thought I had the solution by the midway point of the story but clever writing and a raft of twists and turns had me second and third guessing myself. In the end, it doesn’t matter if my theory was right or not, because it’s this ability to keep the reader guessing that’s the mark of a good suspense writer. The solution to the story is slowly revealed like one of Layla’s Russian dolls – each layer removed until the last doll shows us where she’s been hiding.
Some reviewers have suggested the final reveal is somewhat unbelievable but I tend to disagree. The world we live in can be a pretty crazy place, and bizarre things happen every day – so why can’t readers stretch their imaginations and enjoy the possibility of something crazy happening in an entertaining crime fiction story? The final pages where we find out what really happened to Layla are gripping and devastating with tragic consequences.
Anyone who picks up a B.A. Paris novel is guaranteed a good read and Bring Me Back is definitely one to file under “I have to know what happens!”
Bring Me Back by B.A. Paris is published in Australia by Harper Collins.
Through the rain, my eyes pick out the inky waters of a loch to my left, black reeds jutting through its surface like a three-day growth and I reduce my speed, searching for a cattle grid. Seconds later, my wheels find it, jarring my concentration. I pull in on the other side of the grid. As I get out of the car, adrenalin courses through me.