An Unbelievable Thriller
Author: B.A. Paris
It began in the dark, in fear. But it didn’t start that way.
Amelie married Ned Hawthorne, her billionaire boss, for money; it was a pure business deal, unconsummated, brief, uncomplicated. Ned’s motives, however, were not as straight forward as he promised. Now, Amelie has been kidnapped and locked in a dark room. She has plenty of time to look back over her mistakes, at the man her fake husband turned out to be, and to wonder how she can let her captors know that she does not sympathize with or support Ned. As days pass, she remembers how it all started and sees all her missed opportunities to escape.
Poor from the start, an orphan, Amelie had found unlikely friends. Rich and powerful friends who set her up for the job that would be her unraveling. Then there was the marriage, the murder, the fear, the scheme. As Amelie lies in the dark and thinks it all over, she hears her muffled husband in another part of the house, trying to barter with his kidnappers, trying once again to weave truth and lies and save himself. But at what cost?
The Prisoner by B.A. Paris is a weak offering, despite the clever premise. We start in an isolated room, with Amelie, kidnapped and terrified, exploring the limits of her new cage, waiting for the captor who brings her food yet never talks. We’re clearly meant to feel fear and curiosity. What happened, how did we get to this point, who is this frantic woman? But even at the beginning, it does not ring true. The fear is described, but never felt. Amelie’s flashback memories are far more interesting than her present, dire circumstances. The kidnapping is boring. The forced Stockholm Syndrome between Amelie and a man who never speaks and never interacts with her is unbelievable and a poor choice to anchor a flailing plot.
But let’s jump into the past, where most of the tale unwinds. Amelie was young and penniless. Her father was dead, and she was on her own, trying to make her way in the world. Then, she saw a wealthy woman who, distraught, leaves an uneaten muffin in a coffee shop. She traced this woman, offered a sympathetic ear, got the uneaten muffin. An unlikely friendship is formed from this stalker-esque behavior, and Amelie began working for the woman, who gave her too much money and bed and board all for a few cooked-up meals and some housecleaning. It’s the kind of rags to riches moment that is only viable in fairy tales.
Soon, Amelie became friends with yet another rich woman, and all three are happily ever after. Then Ned arrived. Ned was suave and good looking and had a business proposal that Amelie, feckless as she is, accepted with no thought and no consultation. But Ned pivoted into a monstrous role almost immediately, killing freely while his now stunned wife, who had already outsmarted him on the marriage contract, wordlessly watched. It’s all too much, a forced drama outside of logic and real human reactions and interactions. But before Amelie can fight off her new husband, the kidnappers come and the story pivots again. Amelie is in over her head, clearly, but do we really even care? After all, it is so clearly a story, without any real characters, that it hardly matters if Amelie dies a captive or becomes involved in yet another complicated, fairy-tale, deus ex machina twist that will give her answers, money, and (of course) romance.
I’m not entirely sure how to rate this particular tale. Fortunately, it was a quick story. I listened to it on Audible, and while I scoffed at how utterly unbelievable it all was, and how flat all the characters were, I didn’t hate it. There was some cleverness in the story, and if the time and attention to details and emotions had been taken, this could have been an engaging tale. Perhaps it was more the “this happened and then this happened” cadence that ruined the charm, and not the outlandish nature of the story. After all, with good writing and a patience set up, we can believe almost anything. Thrillers are rarely known for their realistic nature.
I found myself mildly intrigued. I didn’t mind continuing to listen, but I was never invested. If the book had suddenly failed to play, I would have shrugged and moved on. It’s hard to quantify such a reading experience – one that is ok, or at least non-offensive, when it had the potential to be far better. As it was, this read like a grocery list of improbable circumstances and wooden people, moving in a world clearly plotted for them. The theme of the story was interesting enough to keep me listening, but the viability and emotion weren’t there. I neither hated nor loved this offering.
– Frances Carden
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