The Therapist by BA Paris – Review
By Sophie Macintyre
I’m always excited to start reading a new thriller and this one looked right up my street. The title, the endorsements, and ‘Sunday Times Bestseller’ on the cover looked promising; although, I think those things also blinded me to the clichéd imagery of the rose with fallen petal and leaf with blood on it. But it had great reviews and the title was intriguing – the idea of a therapist with whom you share intimate secrets being central to the story was a real draw. And it certainly started well; the italic font and first person present-tense narrator, whom we can immediately assume is ‘the therapist’ by the narrative clues: ‘just two chairs’ and the ‘small table to the right for my notepad’, was a clever and chilling opening. It ends with the therapist quoting a line from a renowned philosopher and in seeing their client smile and relax, reveals their disingenuous intentions with a single sentence: ‘I knew she’d like that one’. My heart was already racing.
I eagerly moved on to chapter one. But this chapter is told by the character of Alice and is also narrated in first person. As this comes straight after the creepy opening, she is the character we are led to feel we can trust to tell the story – and we have to trust her, as it’s the only viewpoint we get other than the therapist’s. But somehow, I didn’t warm to Alice. I think perhaps BA Paris intended to make her vulnerable, which does come across, but I also felt she was somewhat weak and needy.
She listens in to the neighbours’ conversations from an upstairs window and doesn’t quite muster the courage to introduce herself; she’s a little shy, but then somehow clumsily shoehorns herself into various situations; and any sympathy we feel for her is undone by her impulsive decision to invite all the neighbours round for drinks, despite telling us that her partner, Leo, had already suggested getting to know everyone before inviting them round.
“Kept me guessing”
This is annoying as it shows her to be a bit rash and self-centred – her desire to be liked taking priority over Leo’s feelings. It also rings alarm bells as to why Leo warns against rushing in to meeting every one, and, given that she has just moved in with him, why Alice so blatantly chooses to ignore him. Alice really wants to fit in, but at the same time is constantly asking awkward questions and stirring things up, and then wondering why she doesn’t fit in, which I found irritating.
That said, Paris sets up a range of avenues as to where the story is going, and the chapters kept me guessing as to which of these it would follow and how each would develop. There are a lot of new beginnings for Alice – moving in with her long-distance boyfriend for the first time having had a long-distance relationship sets up the idea that she doesn’t really know him all that well. Moving to a new area – a small, exclusive gated community – sets us up for the idea that she is an outsider and has the hurdles that come with that in terms of fitting in, but also the fresh perspective that that comes when meeting this new circle of people. I also enjoyed the therapist’s chapters, which kept the pace moving.
You almost know the ending from the start, but it does keep you guessing as to which of the characters has something to hide, and my opinions and doubts about each character were constantly shifting throughout, as they should be when reading a good thriller. While the main character wasn’t that likeable to me, and the plot wasn’t that complex, if you want a good summer psychological thriller with a chilling moment or two that doesn’t need too much thought, then The Therapist a worthwhile read.
‘The Therapist’ by BA Paris is published by HarperCollins, £12.99 hardback