Mark and Steph have a relatively happy family with their young daughter in sunny Cape Town until one day when armed men in balaclavas break into their home. Left traumatized but physically unharmed, Mark and Steph are unable to return to normal and live in constant fear. When a friend suggests a restorative vacation abroad via a popular house swapping website, it sounds like the perfect plan. They find a genial, artistic couple with a charming apartment in Paris who would love to come to Cape Town. Mark and Steph can’t resist the idyllic, light-strewn pictures, and the promise of a romantic getaway. But once they arrive in Paris, they quickly realize that nothing is as advertised. When their perfect holiday takes a violent turn, the cracks in their marriage grow ever wider and dark secrets from Mark’s past begin to emerge.
Deftly weaving together two complex and compelling narrators, S. L. Grey builds an intimate and chilling novel of a disintegrating marriage in the wake of a very real trauma. The Apartment is a terrifying tour-de-force of horror, of psychological thrills, and of haunting suspense.
I expected a very specific kind of reading experience with The Apartment. Based on the blurb and the endorsements from other authors and critics I thought this would be exciting, suspenseful, and a little hard to take sometimes. That just isn’t true.
Instead of being scared or thrilled or chilled, I was a little bit bored. It’s not that the book itself is boring, it’s that this content isn’t for me. You may be thinking you’re getting a predominately spooky story sure to keep you up all night, but really this book is about the breakdown of a relationship once it experiences a trauma from which both individuals can’t move on.
I truly think that if readers knew precisely what they were getting into with this book, the ratings would be better. Marketed for a certain demographic has led to the book letting us horror fans down.
I speak about it more eloquently in my YouTube review, but instead of a typical plot structure for a thriller or horror, the tension does not gradually increase leading up to one major climax and turning point for the book. Instead, each chapter pairing, with one from Mark’s POV and one from Steph’s POV, creates and tension and then immediately resolves it. Yes, there is an overall point to all of that, but it isn’t what horror or thriller or paranormal fans typically chase.
I would still recommend this book to a specific kind of reader, however, anyone reading this based on the cover alone is going to be very disappointed.
To be honest, I’m not sure what Stephanie ever saw in Mark. I’m not basing that on their age difference, but the author presents the character as a scared, weak, insecure, not particularly stylish or all that successful kind of dude. Regardless, Steph has grown to resent Mark and that’s usually the first sign that shit is going south and fast. Resentment cannot and does not lead or emulate respect for another individual and it’s pretty hard to build a life with someone you don’t respect. That is your psychology lesson for the day. I do accept marriage counseling appointments for a rather large fee.
The best part of this book for me was the creep-tastic moments that took place in Paris. Still, those were disjointed and too few and far between. I kept waiting for some spirit to harm the couple or possess one of them or something. Nothing quite that exciting happened. When something did happen, the imagery was pretty decent and I can say that I was grossed out on occasion.
As for characters, I was most impressed by the tenant from hell in the top floor of this abandoned apartment building. She was a case. Neither Mark nor Steph ended up being very likable to me. I was pleased that Steph was at least a strong and capable woman. Too often, wives are portrayed as completely dependent upon their husband’s with no capacity to take responsibility for themselves. So the book did have that going for it. Steph just wasn’t very nice during the process.