When everything has been taken from you–your parents, your only sibling, your job, your boyfriend–which sums up just about your entire life–would you be willing to take anything offered your way in exchange for money and a temporary luxury?
“Lock Every Door” by Riley Sager follows the story of Jules Larsen who responded to an ad hiring an apartment sitter at the Bartholomew, an upscale but concealed apartment building in Manhattan that houses only the rich and famous. Jules apparently would accept anything that could provide her with food and shelter let alone housesit a luxurious apartment unit. Parentless and jobless, Jules was beyond belief in her acceptance to the Bartholomew. It was for Jules a lifesaver–a press away on a reset button that will make her forget about her tragic past and start life anew.
But Jules suspected her predicament to being too good to be true.
As she unravels the truth about the Bartholomew — the real reason behind its reputation for secrecy — Jules finally comes face to face with her tragic fate. After all, everything comes with a price.
No visitors. No nights spent away from the apartment. No disturbing the other residents, all of whom are rich or famous or both. These are the only rules for Jules Larsen’s new job as an apartment sitter at the Bartholomew, one of Manhattan’s most high-profile and mysterious buildings. Recently heartbroken and just plain broke, Jules is taken in by the splendor of her surroundings and accepts the terms, ready to leave her past life behind.
As she gets to know the residents and staff of the Bartholomew, Jules finds herself drawn to fellow apartment sitter Ingrid, who comfortingly, disturbingly reminds her of the sister she lost eight years ago. When Ingrid confides that the Bartholomew is not what it seems and the dark history hidden beneath its gleaming facade is starting to frighten her, Jules brushes it off as a harmless ghost story—until the next day, when Ingrid disappears.
Searching for the truth about Ingrid’s disappearance, Jules digs deeper into the Bartholomew’s dark past and into the secrets kept within its walls. Her discovery that Ingrid is not the first apartment sitter to go missing at the Bartholomew pits Jules against the clock as she races to unmask a killer, expose the building’s hidden past, and escape the Bartholomew before her temporary status becomes permanent.
POV, Writing Style and Atmosphere
The author immediately established the atmosphere of mystery by opening the novel set in the present day with Jules having encountered an accident. This writing style conditions the reader of the threat that already happened with the protagonist and an ominous fact was established when she begged not to be returned to the Bartholomew. Sager utilized an immersive first-person POV for the protagonist and used direct and not overly elaborate sentences, but his use of descriptive imagery allowed the readers to imagine visual representations of the novel’s setting. The dual timelines also proved advantageous setting the build-up for the novel’s plot twist.
The author didn’t shy away from infusing gothic elements: the portent history of the Bartholomew, satanic cult, suicide, death, footsteps approaching, sinister objects: the dumbwaiter, diabolic symbols are just to name a few. These elements gave the novel a darker atmosphere creating a sense of foreboding and unease.
(Stop at this point if you have not read the book)
There is so much to say about this novel that I cannot expressively put into words. The mystery and suspense genre has become popular over the years because of its strong hook among readers. But not all novels of the genre have exhibited the same level of well-structured chapters and riveting conclusions. Only a few can create such a disturbing impact that long after you have read such novels, you find yourself going back to every chapter. This is how I describe Riley Sager’s unputdownable book due to its sheer unpredictability.
I also can’t help but gush on Sager’s choice of tropes for his novel that just when you thought you have uncovered the cult holding the dark secrets of the Bartholomew, it will leave you breathless once again with another plot twist. It was an exhilarating ride and this novel is deserving of the television series it scored with Paramount.
Overall, “Lock Every Door” is a terrifying masterpiece and I’m not just referring to the build-up of suspense and mystery revealing whodunit as the novel’s culmination. I am referring to the social relevance of Sager’s novel on Human Organ Trafficking and Social Inequality. Sager has raised awareness of the issues on a global scale — how illegal organ trade is real and has become a prevalent crime than we are possibly made aware of. The exploitation behind existing organized crime syndicates that handle black market organ trading is more disturbing and macabre than any fictional narrative written on the topic. Moreso on the issue of how despairing people of affluence who needed immediate transplants, feel they are overly privileged and more entitled to live their lives, that they can get away with moral obligations. Sager visibly demarcated the line between the wealthy and the underprivileged sectors by narrating the severe exploitation of those who are financially desperate and marginally poor as nothing but dispensable variables in the social hierarchy. In the end, Jules made a choice to put an end to the problem. In the real world, the issue of illegal organ trading will continue to proliferate as long as global inequality remains unresolved.