I love Megan Collins writing, so when I saw Behind the Red Door available for request on NetGalley, I knew I had to request. That cover, that synopsis--I was hooked, and thrilled to receive an advanced digital copy for review.
Years ago, a young girl was abducted and returned drugged and blindfolded a month later; on the twentieth anniversary of her abduction, she goes missing again. At the same time, Fern returns home to help her father pack up her childhood home, unearthing frightening memories and snippets that lead her to believe she was somehow involved. The further she digs into her childhood, the more convinced she becomes that she knows more than her memory is allowing her to access. I devoured this book. Collins' structure and plot execution are superb. The crisp, clean, magnetic writing style, an authentic character with a troubled and disconcerting past, a complex repressed memory that felt genuine, not "amnesia for the sake of pushing the plot." Fern is an interesting narrator. Her anxieties about motherhood are palpable and complex and beautifully executed. What I really liked was the duality of abuse and the juxtaposition between Ted's troubled childhood and Fern's. Collins highlights competing emotions children of abuse often feel for their guardians. Everything is not so cut and dry as good and bad person, especially when the punishment/reward dynamic has been so thoroughly established and internalized. I felt Fern's conflicting emotions, and because she was so endearing, her determination to get to the bottom of the truth made the twists that much more unexpected. Additionally, in a genre crowded with murderous spouses and neighbors next door, it was refreshing to see conflicts resolved in a way that didn't center around violence. Yes, there is terror and ambiguities, but we see a realistic portrayal of characters instead of 2D images of people finding superhuman strength and Final Girl smarts to survive. I loved this about Fern, and I think a lot of readers will feel the same. As a side note, in my mind, I completely pictured our narrator as Fern from the cinematic classic horror Jawbreaker; I love when connections like that pop for no reason. Overall, Behind the Red Door is a taut, smart, explosive page-turner. Add this one to your TBR ASAP. Huge thanks to Atria and NetGalley for providing an eARC in exchange for honest review consideration.