Dolls in general are pretty creepy, right? The glass eyes that follow you round the room, the oddly child-like features, the ones that talk…especially the ones that talk…*shudders*. So if you were going to write a book – a thriller, no less – where you were creating a omnipresent sense of foreboding, a potential back-from-the-dead plotline, a character exerting their power to possibly ruin your life you might think that creepy dolls would fit into the plot nicely. I certainly thought so.
But which creepy doll would you choose? A Stephen King style clown toy? A terrifying Victorian creation? A crudely made voodoo doll?
Or the most adorable, not even slightly creepy Matryoshka (or Russian dolls – you know, the super cute brightly painted type that nest inside of each other).
Yeah, I probably wouldn’t go for that. But B. A. Paris did!
Bring Me Back is the story of Finn, a 40 something financy type person (something to do with stocks and shares portfolios – it’s a bit vague). He’s living with Ellen, the sister of his missing girlfriend Layla and has just asked her to marry him, which is weird but you know, whatevs. We know from the offset that Finn is hiding something about Layla’s disappearance at a service station in France years before but we’re not sure of details or even if Layla is still alive. However, Russian dolls start appearing in random places (relevant because Layla always carried one with her) and Finn starts receiving mysterious email correspondence regarding his previous life. What really happened? Is Finn to blame? Is Layla alive or is it an elaborate hoax? Where do Finn’s loyalties lie?
OK, so back to my Matryoshka issue..
Now, I’m not so thick that I can’t see the metaphoric relevance to the storyline (which I’m not going to elaborate on because spoilers) of using darling little Russian dolls as supposed harbringers of doom. However, when the explanation for them appearing is Layla always carried one with her, is that metaphor needed? Is it relevant? Wouldn’t a mangled Barbie have done a better job?
I think it’s time to let it go…
So, on to my other issues with the book:
1. The Characters
Finn is pretty much the only character that you get to know i.e. has any sort of personality, except for the character who may or may not be Layla. Ellen is the perfect sexy lamp of a girlfriend, not asking questions or doing anything other than watching her weight or getting her hair done. However, unlike so many female characters with no agency, this was clearly an intentional choice by the author and made sense when you found out the ending – but this meant that for 90% of the book Ellen may as well have been a cardboard cutout. The lesser characters are pretty interchangeable and are just there to react to the action.
Wait – did you say didn’t ask questions? Isn’t she dating the last person to have seen her missing sister alive – the guy who is most likely to be involved somehow in her disappearance?
Yes, dear readers, yes she is. Also the guy who, if she’d bothered to ask any of his friends, had to escape from Ireland because his “temper” aka abusive/violent tendencies had led to him having quite a few people after him. People that surprisingly didn’t come forwards after Finn was implicated (and was presumably the top suspect) in a massive media story about his girlfriend’s frankly bizzare disappearance.
2. The World They Live In
Finn and Ellen live in a beautiful little village in Gloucestershire. Finn clearly earns a lot of money as a city trader and Ellen – well, Ellen is an illustrator but irrelevant so we know she earns enough to get her hair and nails done every month.
Wait – did you say city trader? Like the financial district in London which is…how many hours away from Gloucestershire?
Yes dear readers, yes I did. But, like so-freaking-many books written today both Ellen and Finn work from home, thus allowing them to ditch work and get involved in activities that push the storyline forwards at the drop of a hat. I’m not sure that’s what happens in real life – especially as Finn is meant to be pulling off million pound deals and managing a huge share portfolio. I’d guess that’s a pretty pressurised job and would require more than a couple of hours a day at a computer screen? And quite a lot of time in meetings?
Yeah, but don’t worry – he drives in to the office a few times.
Wait – he drives into central London? From the other side of the country?
Yeah. Also the line “text me when you leave London, then I’ll know what time you’ll be back”. Because there’s never any delays or variable amounts of traffic driving out of London on a weekday afternoon.
But – trains?
Just – I don’t know, I didn’t write it.
3. The Ending
…was bullshit. Due to my promise of a delightfully spoiler free review I’m not going to say much more but seriously? It has to be one of the most unbelievable endings of all time.
4. The Fact That Despite All Of The Plot Holes and Various Other Bits Of Nonsense, I Quite Enjoyed It (Until The Ending)
This book is an absolute page turner. I could forgive all the incongruous details, the wooden characters (it’s mostly Finn’s perspective so they don’t feature that heavily), the girlfriend-who-is-constantly-watching-her-weight-but-tootles-off-for-a-fry-up-at-a-moments-notice (not to mention an almost daily pub lunch), the wedding that’s in a couple of months but still doesn’t have a reception venue booked and the initial insta-love between Finn and Layla – not to mention (for those of you who’ve read it) the dog thing all because the plot goes at such a pace and has so many twists and turns that you become completely absorbed in the story almost instantly. I’d convince myself that I’d worked it all out, only to find out on the next page that I was completely wrong. I loved all the red herrings and the way that the intrigue was drawn out across the entire novel. I also liked the sort-of love triangle between Layla, Finn and Ellen and the way that Finn’s emotions played out, as it added another layer of interest to the overall storyline. That ending though…
I really don’t know how to rate this book. It’s a fast paced, exciting read but there’s no substance to it – the constant incongruous details, the supporting cast of personality deprived characters and that ending hugely detract from it. If the story had finished with something plausible then this would be one of those books that you whipped through then instantly forgot about but unfortunately I think I’ll remember it for all the wrong reasons.
Rating: 3 interchangable supporting characters (Harry? Peter? David?) out of five.
For sheer readability and intrigue this book has dragged itself back from the brink of a one star review. Perfectly enjoyable if you don’t think about the details too much.
Please note that read this
shit book for free via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thanks, Netgalley!