Lock Every Door: A Novel

Image of Lock Every Door: A Novel
Release Date: 
July 2, 2019
Reviewed by: 

“Sager fans and new readers alike will enjoy this heart-pounding thriller that cleverly weaves economic anxiety with something a whole lot darker.”

Riley Sager fans are in for more spine-tingling chills with his new novel Lock Every Door. Sager’s previous bestselling thrillers, Final Girls and The Last Time I Lied, take on the tropes of the frequently female lone survivor of a slasher massacre and terror at a teen summer camp. This time around, Sager puts a new spin on the trope of elegant buildings with a serious creep factor, made famous by novels like Rosemary’s Baby and The Shining.

When she gets hired as an apartment sitter at the posh New York apartment building, the Bartholomew, Jules Larsen can’t believe her good fortune. A picture of the Bartholomew is on the cover of her favorite novel, Heart of a Dreamer, about an orphan named Ginny who lives the life of her dreams there.

It’s been Jules’ dream to live here, too, and now that dream is coming true—and just in time: Jules, who recently lost her job and broke up with her cheating boyfriend, has been crashing in her friend Chloe’s apartment and is running out of money. Like Ginny, Jules is also an orphan, and there’s no one she can turn to for help.

The apartment sitter job will pay her $4000 a month, but there’s a catch: She’s not allowed to have visitors, spend any nights away, or to bother the building’s wealthy residents. Of course, that seems a small price to pay for the privilege of living in luxury and getting her life back on track.

At first Jules doesn’t mind being alone in the gorgeous apartment with its views of Central Park and the gargoyle outside her window, which she nicknames George. She becomes friends with Ingrid, a quirky fellow apartment sitter, and meets some of the building’s long-term tenants, including none other than Greta Manville—the elusive author of Heart of a Dreamer.

Even so, Jules is self-conscious around the wealthy residents, embarrassed to be seen carrying bags of bargain groceries. And despite her attempts to shrug off Chloe’s warnings about the Bartholomew’s dark history, Jules can’t shake a creeping sense of dread.

Believing there’s a monster behind the door can be scarier than seeing the actual monster, and Sager builds nail-biting suspense with subtle indications that all is not perfect in this apartment paradise. One moment the gorgeous wallpaper is “a red floral pattern—an ornate expanse of petals spread open like fans and overlapping in elaborate combinations.”

But later that same pattern becomes “oppressive”: “All those flowers opening like mouths, their petals colliding. The oval spaces between them are colored a shade of red so dark it flirts with blackness. They remind me of eyes studding the wallpaper.”

It seems all it takes is a slight shift in perception for the beautiful world around Jules to turn frightening. She worries something is terribly wrong with the building, its residents, or that it is all in her head. And then Ingrid disappears—and Jules can’t help thinking something more sinister has happened.

Lock Every Door not only pays homage to past horror novels that feature scary buildings, it also shines a light on something more immediate: the horror of millennial financial insecurity. Jules is locked into a life in which she struggles with not knowing how she’ll pay for her next meal, let alone tackle her student debt. She is terrified she may never find a foothold in a world where the deck seems stacked against her. And as she gets to know the privileged tenants of the Bartholomew she realizes how vast the divide between her and the “one percent” really is.

Sager fans and new readers alike will enjoy this heart-pounding thriller that cleverly weaves economic anxiety with something a whole lot darker. Jules must face the demons in the woodwork and in the world around her if she is to have any hope of a future. Because, ultimately, locking every door won’t keep the terror away if the terror is locked in there with you.