Review: The Boy at the Door by Alex Dahl

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☆☆➹⁀☆ 3.5-4 stars ☆➹⁀☆☆


What It’s About:

This riveting psychological suspense debut by Alex Dahl asks the question, “how far would you go to hold on to what you have?”

Cecilia Wilborg has it all–a loving husband, two beautiful daughters, and a gorgeous home in an affluent Norwegian suburb. And she works hard to keep it all together. Too hard…

There is no room for mistakes in her life. Even taking home a little boy whose parents forgot to pick him up at the pool can put a crimp in Cecilia’s carefully planned schedule. Especially when she arrives at the address she was given
and finds an empty, abandoned house…

There’s nothing for Cecilia to do but to take the boy home with her, never realizing that soon his quiet presence and knowing eyes will trigger unwelcome memories from her past–and unravel her meticulously crafted life.

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My Thoughts:

The Boy at the Door is not your usual dark Scandinavian mystery. It has more of a psychological thriller feel to it, rather than a grizzly murder mystery. One lie begets more lies as Cecilia Wilborg protects the image of her perfect life and hides her lack of self-esteem.

Cecilia Wilborg works very hard to present the perfect image to family and friends. While the reader is made to believe that the town folk of Sandefjord are nosey and judgmental and her perfect-catch husband would find someone much more worthy if she weren’t flawless, it felt that her image making had more to do with making up for perceived insufficiencies. In her self-absorption, she can behave rudely to strangers as well as friends and family. Cecilia’s delusional behavior is set on a disastrous course when she is asked to give a ride home from the public swimming pool.

Alex Dahl’s characters are intriguing in their imperfections and bad choices. Both Cecilia and Anni are at times empathetic, but for the most part, they are not likable. Both women’s bad choices leave them culpable for many lives ruined. Cecilia’s father is not much better for his part in the travesty. Cecilia’s husband, Johan, seems to be the only redeemable character, however, after Cecilia’s objectivity as the narrator comes into question, this could be another of her poor perceptions. Tobias, the precocious boy at the center of the story, draws people in with his looks and quiet charm. While his plight broke my heart, I found his maturity and sage comments unbelievable.

There are sufficient twists in this steadily paced mystery to keep readers in shock and guessing. Drugs and delusion drive the main character to make one bad choice after another. In the end, she has only herself to blame for the demise of her picture-perfect reputation. Read The Boy at the Door to find out if Cecilia does ultimately “win”.

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