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 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 sordid past and into the secrets kept within its walls. What she discovers 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.
Riley Sager’s thrillers, with their vibrant covers and original premises, have been on everyone’s radar ever since the publication of FINAL GIRLS a couple years ago. I had mixed opinions about his previous two books – I enjoyed FINAL GIRLS but found THE LAST TIME I LIED to be tedious and lacking tension. Even so, I was intrigued by the modern haunted house style basis of LOCK EVERY DOOR. As I have been reading a lot of contemporary fiction lately, I was in the mood for a thriller, and buddy read this with Heather from her Booktube channel Bookables.
The main character Jules is hired to apartment sit at the Bartholomew, a ritzy and notoriously creepy and dangerous building in Manhattan, in exchange for $12,000. During the initial interview, it seems as though her interviewer made sure that she had few family relationships and friendships, and detached herself from the world with no social media interactions or visitors. Jules is a somewhat nebulous main character, unattached and adrift having just broken up with her emotionally manipulative and cheating ex-boyfriend Andrew. Her parents are also both deceased and her sister Jane is missing, so she has no family roots. I was afraid that these characteristics would contribute to never connecting with her, but her character development was strong. She evolved greatly through her grief.
Jules had just moved out from the apartment she shared with Andrew and had very little money to her name, which was why she so eagerly accepted the job offer. Through this plotline, we learned that she struggles with asking for help and pride surrounding money. She talked about the privilege that rich people have, which was emphasized by the juxtaposition of the “rich and famous” permanent residents at the Bartholomew and the way they use and manipulate people who are poor and of a lower socioeconomic status. This manipulation ran deep, and was demonstrated in Jules’ mistrust of everyone, both rich and poor. She did not trust the rich inhabitants because they acted like they pitied her, as if they were above or better than her. She did not trust the other apartment sitter because she didn’t know whether they were being manipulated into seeming trustworthy by the rich inhabitants.
The Bartholomew itself acts as somewhat of a character. Riley Sager describes its wallpaper and decor as having features similar to eyes or a face, as if it is “always watching”, which contributed to the creepy haunted house trope. It maintains the ominous feeling throughout the story, with many years of history, along with the history of Manhattan. The specific apartment unit that Jules is watching also has a history, specifically of its sitters going missing, including Ingrid, who Jules has just met and formed a connection with. Part of the mystery surrounding Ingrid was figuring out whether she was being manipulated by the rich inhabitants, somehow possessed or enmeshed with the Bartholomew as a character, and/or just a victim.
Riley Sager also excels at writing a compelling large cast of supporting characters, with just the right haze of mystery such that we don’t know who to eliminate as a suspect. Much of the story is made up of Jules running into different people upon leaving and entering the building, and he introduces and reintroduces each character with impeccable timing. This keeps the plot propulsive with what seems like very little effort, and what I think makes mysteries like Agatha Christie’s large cast novels so readable and approachable.
I loved everything I mentioned above, and they all made up an amazing first 80% of the book. I was sure that I would be rating it somewhere in the 4 star range. Unfortunately, the last 20% was completely out of left field, which is probably not enough hyperbole. It was completely out of left field and not even on the same planet. None of the clues really had anything to do with the ending so it felt like all of the plot twists amounted to nothing much because none of it added up. The absurdity compounded on itself exponentially and I found myself wanting to throw my Kindle at the wall after finishing the book. Heather and I both actually recognized the plotline that they used from a popular TV show, and neither of us liked it when it was used in the TV show too. The ending cheapened the villainous characters, the history of the house, and the buildup, and I was upset about it.
MY CONCLUSION: UNSURE
I was so compelled by the first 80% of LOCK EVERY DOOR. It had all the elements I enjoy in a thriller: novel idea, unexpected plot twists with a fair share of tension. However, it all fell apart in the last 20%. Your enjoyment of the book and how much I would recommend it depends on how highly you require the ending of a thriller to be satisfying, or whether you would be happy just reading a strong first 80% with a disappointing ending.
Is this book for you?
Premise in a sentence: Jules, who has few personal connections, is hired to apartment sit in a creepy building in Manhattan for a generous sum and weird things happen, including disappearances of its previous sitters.
Perfect for: readers who like thrillers that move quickly and have a large cast of suspects, readers who like the haunted house trope
Genre: Adult thriller
Trigger/content warning: death, medical trauma and slight gore, missing people, general violence, gun violence