Concept: ★★★★★ – The concept of the way in which “Bring Me Back” By B. A. Paris is being told seems too recognizable during the first part of the book. The author played on the then and now writing pattern that too many authors seem to use these days. However, in the second part of the book, her decision to use this method is backed up by how the storyline plays out.
Writing: ★★★★☆ – The author maintains a steady writing pattern, continuously giving the reader enough to manipulate, but letting the story play out as a page-turning mystery. Paris wrote in a manner that was easy to follow, yet supported the entirety of the plot. The only thing that I didn’t like was her lack of physical description of the main character. Beyond his height and his age, I truly feel as though I have little idea what Finn looked like.
Character Development: ★★★★★ – If I could give Paris six stars for character development, I would. She effortlessly created five – or six – main characters, both now and then. Not only that, but she transitioned them throughout the story in a way that mirrored and emphasized the plot! Truly spectacular!
Plot: ★★★★★ – To say I didn’t have an inkling as to how the story would finally end is a lie. I had ideas, I had a lot of ideas. What made the plot great is that I had no idea which idea was right, nor did I have any idea how the main character would come to find out the truth behind Layla, Ellen, and their Russian dolls.
Pacing: ★★★★★ – The pacing of this novel was fabulous. I couldn’t put the book down. I had an ARC – provided by Net Galley – that was in an e-book format and I’ve been reading this book on my Kindle, on my phone, on my iPad and pretty much anywhere else I could pull it up for the last three days!
Ending: ★★★☆☆ – Although I honestly loved this book, the ending wasn’t great. Did it answer all of the questions created in my mind as I read it? Yes. Did it do it in a creative way? No. The note, found after all is said and done, is a cliche way to reveal all of Layla’s secrets.
Cover Art: ★★★★★ – Since this book isn’t published yet, I was left to Google for the possible cover art. I was able to find two versions, which are pictured below.
At first, I was a bigger fan of the one on the left, with the broken Russian dolls littering the cover. However, once I realized that the shattered wood on the right cover represented a shattered person or the broken cottage where love was initially found, I decided both covers were excellent works of art.
Overall Rating: ★★★★☆
Thank you, NetGalley, for the ARC of Bring Me Back by B. A. Paris!
Spoilers and an overall review below!
When I initially started reading Bring Me Back by B. A. Paris, I was immediately drawn into the urgency that the author created in the reading: what had happened to Layla all those years ago? In a deliberate manner, Paris ended every chapter with a hesitant clause, one that allowed the thoughts of “what if?” to linger on the border of my mind.
In Part One of the book, we are introduced to Finn and Ellen, a seemingly perfect couple. Of course, we then learn that Finn has been in another serious relationship with Ellen’s missing sister, Layla. Although it is evident that Finn love’s Ellen, it’s also blatantly obvious that he was – or truly believed he was – in love with Layla. This endearment resulted in a very negative reaction from Finn when he started receiving emails and mementos – in the form of Russian dolls – from a man named Rudolph Hill, who claimed to know Layla. Ironically, around that same time, his elderly, previous neighbor – who had known him while he was in a relationship with Layla – claims that he saw her. Since the man was ninety-two, his word wasn’t exactly much to go on.
However, as the first part of the book continues on, questions start to cloud Finn’s mind. Is Layla alive? If she is, where has she been? If she isn’t, who the hell is sending the emails and leaving the dolls? Is it Ruby, his ex-girlfriend, that is behind this? Maybe she’s jealous that Finn has now gone on to be engaged to Layla’s sister Ellen. Or is it someone else, someone with a more sinister motive? Then, at the very end of the first section of the book, all of Finn’s previous questions are answered – the sender of the emails is Layla, herself.
But what does that mean!?!
At the beginning of Part Two of Bring Me Back, Finn is freshly aware that the person who is sending the emails is Layla. However, for the first time – at least to our knowledge – we are now aware of what Layla is thinking. Her thoughts and goals are simple, really:
Layla wants Finn back and, to ensure that happens, Layla wants Ellen gone – not just gone away, but dead.
Throughout this portion of the book, Layla begins a countdown for Finn. He has ten days to get rid of his fiance, or else… (To be honest, I’m not sure if the “or else” is what actually happens at the end of the book or if it’s something else that we just never are told.) Not only does she send him a lovely email every evening – TEN, NINE, EIGHT… – but she also delivers a doll, every morning.
So distracted by his nearing deadline, Finn starts to draw away from Ellen. Not only do we, as readers, see this, but so does she. She points it out to Finn, telling him how he barely even notices when she leaves for Cheltenham – the town where the doll’s envelopes are postmarked from.
During the turbulent events of their relationship gone awry, we continue to receive insight from what seems to be an unstable Layla. What leads me to believe she’s not quite right? Perhaps it’s her lack of qualms regarding the murder of her sister, but what gave it away is the author’s reference to the “voice” in her head.
Unfortunately, as we continue to see through Layla’s insanity, we become privy to the fact that Ellen has her own secret. Although Paris rarely refers to this secret before revealing the ending, I started to grow curious as to whether there were multiple personalities at play. However, when Layla reveals that she had met with Ellen after her disappearance and discussed whether or not Finn would choose Ellen over Layla, this curiosity is minimized.
As the plot builds and the story thickens, we reach the end of Part Two. Layla is right where Finn isn’t and Finn is distraught.
Finn rushes home from the cottage he shared with Layla to find that Ellen is missing. However, after he finds a trunk filled with discarded Russian Doll shells and her computer mysteriously unplugged, he contacts his closest friends – Tony, Harry, and, coincidentally, Ruby – to come help him. He then passes out for a day, while they work together to unravel the mystery.
While he’s sleeping, they realize that Ellen may have been Layla all along. Once Finn awakes, they prove this theory accurate when he is able to log into Rudolph Hill’s email account. Immediately, although his friends suggest that Ellen may be unstable, Finn jumps to the conclusion that all of this was a cruel prank. He then realizes that Ellen is where she grew up – in Lewis – and he finds the means to go there immediately, only telling Tony.
Once he arrives, he finds Ellen sleeping in an abandoned old house. Confused, she assumes he’s figured out the whole story. He hasn’t and he is infuriated, to the point where he shakes her in a manner similar to the way he had shaken Layla the night she had disappeared. It isn’t until after he cracks her skull on the hut floor that he receives the important note from his friends, who are still at his home. It turns out, in killing Ellen, he indeed finally found out the fate of Layla. He murdered her.
Of course, you have to read the book to find out what the note said.