Published: July 2, 2019
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.
Sager’s debut novel, Final Girls, wasn’t so much a horror novel as a commentary about horror movies in novel form. It was clever but also very well-crafted. The author tried to do something similar with The Last Time I Lie, which came out a year later and with significantly less satisfying results. This new novel is another attempt to make the model work. Whether or not it does depends on how invested one is in formula for the sake of formula.
Jules Larsen is getting over a breakup and the loss of her job when she finds a gig that seems too good to be true: The Bartholomew, a storied Manhattan building, wants to pay her thousands of dollars to simply occupy a vacant—and luxurious—apartment. Jules soon gets the feeling that all is not as it seems at the Bartholomew, which is, of course, a perfect setup for some psychological suspense, but the problem is that there is little in the way of narrative tension because Jules’ situation is so obviously not right from the very beginning. While interviewing for the job, she’s asked about her health history. She’s informed that she is not allowed to have guests in the apartment. She’s warned that she must not interact with or talk to anyone else about the building’s wealthy and famous inhabitants. And she learns that she will be paid under the table. While this might not be enough to deter someone who is broke and desperate, it does mean that Jules should be a bit more concerned than she is when the really scary stuff starts happening.
Once the reader/listener discovers the secret of The Bartholomew, things start happening at a faster pace and the ending appears in hyper speed, almost too fast for me, but still very satisfying.
As I was listening I couldn’t help being reminded of Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin, The Sentinel by Jeffery Konvitz and The Graveyard Apartment by Mariko Koike.
The paranoia and tension will make this a great book to take on vacation this summer, but perhaps reading it alone at night would be second guessed.