Here’s a well-crafted psychological thriller that grabs hold of you on page one and won’t let you go until the very last page. Megan Collin’s latest novel, “Behind the Red Door,” reveals the worst kind of exploitation. It’s about the deep-seated fear most mothers have about their children being taken by a stranger. It all starts when the protagonist, Fern Douglas, believes that she is somehow connected to a kidnapped woman. The television reports claim that the missing woman, Astrid Sullivan, was taken as a child and mysteriously returned unharmed. The abductor has never been found.
Now, 20 years later, Astrid has been abducted once again as a beautiful young woman. Fern has been seeing a therapist about her reoccurring nightmares, and she is certain that she knows this lost woman, but her husband claims it’s just because Astrid’s kidnapping has been in the news so much.
It has also been reported that Astrid has a new best-selling book regarding her childhood abduction, which many assume may have prompted the second kidnapping.
When Fern’s nightmares suddenly include Astrid, she believes this is not just a terrible dream but also a memory that is resurfacing. Her father, a retired psychologist, asks her to help him pack things for a move to Florida. She agrees to drive to her childhood home in New Hampshire not more than an hour away from where the initial kidnapping occurred. While there, she picks up a copy of Astrid’s book and Fern becomes more and more convinced that she knew this woman when they were children, and she knew her when she was first kidnapped.
Clever detective work channels emotionally chilling events and stirs up feelings that begin to jog Fern’s memories more clearly and more sinisterly. After speaking with old friends and neighbors, she realizes she would have been right where the original kidnapping occurred. She is determined to remember where Astrid was taken so that she might help find her now. This is especially important to Fern because Astrid wrote about a young witness who never came forward. Fern believes she was that young witness.
In addition to more and more mysterious events and even more suspicious characters, all of whom are vividly described and well-developed, the reading will keep you rethinking about the kidnapper’s identity. There’s also a believable story about a dysfunctional family and a loving husband enveloping this gripping tale. Fern, once a timid girl becomes braver as she tries to unravel the memories that keep surfacing. The most poignant scenes are those between Fern and her husband as well as with Fern and her father. The most terrifying scenes are too many to count, but not enough to put the book down.
While this outstanding novel is quick to read because you really want to get to the bottom of things, it is quite telling when it comes to family relationships. Fern knows that she has not had traditionally good parents since one has been horrifically obsessed with his research and the other a celebrated artist. However, Fern’s devoted pediatrician husband wants children, and she is not sure that she will know how to be a good parent. When she discovers that she is pregnant, she decides not to tell her husband.
Author Megan Collins is a Connecticut-based writer. She also penned “The Winter Sister” and holds an master’s degree in final arts in creative writing from Boston University. She has taught creative writing at the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts and Central Connecticut State University. She is also the managing editor of “3 Elements Review,” and known for a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee. Her work has appeared in many print and online journals.
Behind the Red Door, Atria Books, an Imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc., Copyright 2020, New York, N.Y.
Photo at top: Joanne Rochman and Tasha reading together.
Joanne Greco Rochman is a longtime member of The National Book Critics Circle. Her book: “On Turning 243 Years Old: Poems, Paintings and Photography” is available at Amazon.com.