reviewed by Cara DiCostanzo
I am a big fan of Arianne Richmond. The Wife’s House and The Newlyweds are two of my favorite books and this one does not disappoint. As with her other books, the theme of the unreliable narrator continues, though there are multiple narrations in The Breakdown, all of them seemingly unreliable.
Each voice has a different agenda and a different perspective on what is actually happening. This novel will keep you riveted.
The Breakdown opens with the perspective of a four-year-old little girl, Lizzie, who has seemingly been kidnapped from her home during a Nor’easter on the island of Casco, Maine. The reader is then taken back nine days previously when a young English girl, Jayne Smith, is being taken on a boat to the island, having been hired by Celeste and Max Wainwright to be an au pair for their two young children, Lizzie and Liam. Celeste has had a breakdown after an almost fatal car accident while 9 months pregnant with her infant, Violet. Sadly, her husband Max and her doctors believe it was a failed attempt at suicide. The accident has affected her memory, and she is now confined to her bedroom under the watchful eye of Alex Sharpe, a nurse assigned from the hospital. Max’s former college friend, Dr. Stephen, is given a cabin on the Wainwright property in order to administer therapy to Celeste. Everyone is keeping a secret, and it definitely keeps the reader intrigued.
Having been warned by Captain Eric on the boat that the Wainwrights are not the nicest family, Jayne is already wary when she arrives on the island. From the moment Max Wainwright picks her up, and she meets the other members of the family, including his sister Marjorie, she realizes something is not right. Within days, baby Violet has died of SIDS and Lizzie is kidnapped in the middle of the night and disappears without a trace.
The various points of view include Adele Alba, the serious detective looking for Lizzie Wainwright. Jayne, the au pair, Celeste, Lizzie’s mother and Dr. Stephen, the therapist. This book is written in a mix of third and first-person perspectives. The benefit of both first- and third-person perspective ensures the reader doesn’t miss out on anything. The chapters go back and forth from past to present, highlighting the before and after of Lizzie’s disappearance. It is difficult to believe any of them, as they all hint at secrets they are hiding, with the exception of Adele Alba. She soon finds out that she is stalled in her investigation because every member of the family is lying to her. This book brings true meaning to the fact that anyone can conceal their true self behind a mask.
The setting of The Breakdown is stunning. The Wainwright summer home is on Casco Island in Maine and the descriptions of the area are eerie but also beautiful. It definitely took this reader out of the story to look at pictures of the actual town of Casco. I loved how Richmonde described the small-town feel of the island and how everyone knew each other, but steered clear of each other as well. I loved this book. In almost every chapter, the reader is shocked to learn another secret that has been cleverly hidden. The Wainwright family captivated me, and the ending is just unbelievable. Arianne Richmonde has done it again!