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  • Writer's pictureMandy McHugh

BA Paris: The Dilemma, A Review

I loved Bring Me Back. Paris' writing style is effortless and engrossing, so I was thrilled to receive an eARC of The Dilemma from St. Martin's Press and NetGalley in exchange for review consideration. I was no less disappointed by the writing in The Dilemma. Livia, a loving mother and devoted wife, is in the final stretches of planning a lavish fortieth birthday party for herself. Years of saving and months of prepping, hard work, and dedication lead to the ultimate dream party she's always wanted, and her husband, Adam, is determined to make it perfect. Whatever it takes. It sounds ominous when I type it, and that's exactly what I expected: ominous. Something disastrous, yet fantastical. A serial killer. A stalker. A long-lost sibling hell-bent on destruction. What I got, however, was much more terrifying: wanting to be there for her mother, Marnie, decides to fly home from where she's studying in Hong Kong for the party, organizing the surprise with her father with the expectation of arriving at the party. Only Adam knows she's coming, and when he sees that the plane Marnie was supposed to be on has crashed, he's the only one who knows of the potential devastation. What ensues is a heart-wrenching look at what happens when the past and the present collide, when people show their true selves in the midst of tragedy, and how people deal with catastrophe and all the different layers. For this, I loved The Dilemma. Airing more on the side of suspense rather than thriller, I found this to be an emotional journey into depression and guilt. "Secrets," in this genre, have become synonymous with crime, murder, and obsession. The unreliable narrator instills this distrust where we think something horrible is going to happen because of an outside force or an intention to do harm. Here, the villain isn't a manipulative stalker or a premeditated murder serving as a means to and end. Here, the villain is guilt and how people cope with mistakes they make when they're younger. It's wanting so much to atone for the hurt you caused before you're unable to see the potential hurt you're causing. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and BA Paris has shown this proverb to be never more true than this story. In spite of the beautiful sadness Paris creates, I had a really hard time getting over the lack of common sense. Adam draws out the purgatorial sense of doom for no reason. He ignores common sense. He creates drama for no reason. Nothing irritates me more than when characters choose to do something so easily solvable and pretend like it's not an option. *spoilers* Adam could've called the airline. The emergency number. He would've known right away whether or not Marnie was on that plane instead of hemming and hawing. I just couldn't understand why he wouldn't find out before he went to Marnie. Why he would've gone the most round-about way to finding out the information--even when someone tells him that's exactly what to do. Countless excuses of illness and lies when the answer was so simple. I wanted it to either be a more concrete reason to not touch base with the airline or to have him attain this information and hold on to it alone, struggling with the cold-hard fact that his daughter was dead and whether he should tell Livia before or after the party. Overall, The Dilemma was a wonderful read. Well-paced, taut with suspense, and emotionally conflicted, add The Dilemma to your 2020 TBR if you love suspense that focuses on complex family relations, bloodless thrills, and hypothetical situations that leave you questioning your own choices.


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