The Boy at the Door by Alex Dahl
The Perfect Life
On paper, Cecelia has everything she could have ever wanted. The perfect husband, rich friends, and two children and she pretends everything is perfect and she couldn't be happier in Alex Dahl's The Boy At The Door.
Protecting her secrets with all her might, Cecelia builds up another layer of her armor every time something might expose her secrets. She knows that if people know the real identity that she hides she would lose everything that has been her cover and salvation.
A less than perfect marriage and a drug habit are the least of Cecelia's problems when she takes her two young daughters to a swimming lesson. The kids had been fighting all day and she wanted a few hours of piece, but as it came time for the lesson to end, Cecelia found her eyes drifting to a small boy that seemed afraid. Something was familiar about the boy but she had never seen him before in the class and intended to ask her daughters' about it later.
As the class ended and she tried to rush the kids in the pouring rain back to the car and home for super, a receptionist stops Cecilia and she finds herself facing the same boy that seemed so familiar yet out of place.
The boy seemed out of place. Familiar somehow with the shape of his eyes and the color of his skin. Maybe it was that he didn't look like any of the other Norwegian children in the class and could pass for being another race. The boy looked afraid and was utterly alone.
The Boy At The Door
As the receptionist stopped Cecelia she was instantly annoyed.
She already had two kids that were beginning to fight with each other as they plowed through the rain to the car. Dinner was to be on the table soon and they had other plans for the evening, but the receptionist hoped that since no one had come for the boy that Cecelia could drop him off on the way home.
Insisting there had to be another way and that she had no time for a fool's mission, Cecelia had found out that receptionist had tried to call several times to the number that she had for a family contact for the boy but no one was answering as it went straight to voicemail.
The receptionist couldn't remember an adult dropping him off in the last few weeks that he had attended class, but knows that someone had to have him registered.
She had confirmed and address with the child and asked again if Cecelia could drop the boy off.
His name was Tobias, which her children said they didn't know him. That he had only come around a few classes. Finally she relented and let her children off at their home and drove on to drop Tobias at the address that she had been given.
The boy was silent the whole ride, perhaps afraid of the stranger at the wheel. When she got to the house she offered to drop him off at the curb, then as the startled child refused to move, she parked in a huff walking him through the rain to the front door of the house. Compared to the houses in her subdivision, this home could certainly use some work. Asking if Tobias had his own key and getting no answer, Cecelia pushed on the door to reveal a home that squatters had apparently been sleeping in but no signs of a family.
"Where are your parents?" she finally asked.
The house looked abandoned save some mattresses thrown down by squatters. Cecelia was at a loss of what to do with the child and as he begged for her to take him back to her home, just for the night- she thought to herself what was the harm and she could drop him off at school tomorrow. She lied to her husband saying that he was a friend of the girls' from swim lessons whose mother needed a night off for family problems. One little lie couldn't hurt. Tobias was going home tomorrow.
A House Where No One Lived
Getting no information from Tobias about where his family had went and if he actually lived in the abandoned house, Cecelia lied to her husband saying that the boy sleeping in the attic room was a friend of the girls' and his mother just needed a night to sort out family issues. Asking no questions, her husband Johann took her word for it and then went off to bed.
What was the worst that could happen?
It was only one night and a small boy.
The next morning, Cecelia had asked Tobias what school he had attended and he had supplied her with an answer. Dumping him at the curb as she had tried to do the night before, the boy trudged into the school without asking her to walk him to the door this time.
It was a matter of hours until the school and the police were calling.
Claiming she had no previous knowledge of the child sans the night before, Cecelia is asked by the police if she is willing to take temporary custody of Tobias as he had bonded with her family as if he might belong. She is hesitant on taking on another child but Johann convinces her it will be no problem having another child around and bounds instantly with the boy. Something isn't right about seeing her family with Tobias.
It had been weeks since Tobias had come to live with the family. He was fitting in instantly but the police are no closer to his origins as his answers seem to all center around Cecelia.
When the boy begins to talk about the farm where he was raised by an older man that was not his father and the transients that hung around the farm and eventually took him, Cecelia begins to fall in love with the child that seems so familiar to her.
As her drug abuse grows, she is trying to cover her tracks and keep everything a secret. When a drug dealer ends up dead, Cecilia tries to deny she knew her, except for the DNA under the woman's fingernails that match Cecelia.
Tobias knows the woman too. She is the woman that took him from the farm.
After a nervous breakdown one afternoon when Tobias was talking about a stuffed bear his mother had made for him, Tobias is taken from the family and placed in another foster home.
Cecelia is not well enough to have custody but she insists that she has to have him. She claims that Tobias is really her son and has the explanation to her family that shortly after her daughter's birth she had been assaulted by a man on vacation and unable to tell anyone what had happened,she had taken off for three months and eventually put the baby that was Tobias up for adoption. But the story that Cecelia tells the police isn't adding up and when a journal from the woman that had been killed by Cecelia appears, along with an email with a man from vacation, every thread of her story begins to unravel.
Johann begins to find out the truth about the woman his wife actually is.
Cecelia has hidden that she has a coke habit for starters and claims that she knew the woman that she killed to get drugs, only that was a lie revealed by the journal as the woman and her boyfriend were blackmailing Cecelia for money as they knew the one thing that could ruin her perfect life.
Shortly after her oldest daughter was born, Cecelia had a fling on vacation that ended in the pregnancy that brought about Tobias. Knowing that her husband wouldn't be the father, she went to her father at six months pregnant and had the baby in secret at his farm asking that he could put the child up for adoption into a proper family.
Shortly after his birth she returned home to her family as if nothing had ever happened and they took her back without question.
The drug addicts began to hang around the farm and eventually took Tobias as ransom finding out that Cecelia had money and had been estranged from her father for so long she had no idea he had kept Tobias to raise on his own.
Trying to pay off her blackmailers, Cecilia got into a fight with the woman and had killed her, leaving Tobias alone in the world once again.
It was coincidence that she had him back or was it.
Finding out the truth, her family was leaving her and she was facing jail time.
Things didn't work out perfectly for Cecelia no matter how hard she tried to pretend and in the last pages she is seen driving her car into the lake hoping for a quick escape into death but she is saved from her attempts knows she will pay for her crimes.
The Boy At The Door is a thrilling novel that has more twists and turns than most thrillers I have read recently.
I really liked this book although parts seemed unbelievable like the ransom for Tobias after all these years, why would someone be willing to pay for a child that she didn't know?
It seemed far fetched the receptionist and the police would put a child that they knew nothing about it a random woman's home who later turned out to be the birth mom. What are the chances?
Still this book is a fantastic and fast paced read.