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The Dilemma


The Dilemma

B. A. Paris has gained a reputation as being one of the more masterful creators of psychological thrillers in the business. With her first three releases, she demonstrated that her strength came from her ability to write tense scenes between fully fleshed-out characters that pop off the page. In her latest novel, THE DILEMMA, the focus is on familial relations and how keeping secrets from each other, regardless of how large or small they are, in such a close-knit environment can only end badly.

The setting is the London suburbs on a lovely summer day. The book is written in real time, and each chapter represents the next hour timeframe, allowing you to palpably feel the tension as it keeps building. The day is June 8th, and the occasion is the 40th birthday party for Livia, a seemingly happy mother of two. The celebration was organized by her loving husband, Adam, with some help from his children --- mostly their son, high schooler Josh, as their college-age daughter, Marnie, is studying abroad.

"The book is written in real time, and each chapter represents the next hour timeframe, allowing you to palpably feel the tension as it keeps building."

The novel bounces back and forth between Livia and Adam's point of view, which is ideal since each of them is hiding a big secret from the other that they do not want to tell and risk ruining the festivities. Personally, I found one of the dilemmas to be far more critical than the other, but they each represent secrets that can only get more troublesome the longer they are allowed to fester.

Livia is going to receive many special presents, but the most important one that Adam has been trying to secretly orchestrate is Marnie making a surprise appearance at the party. He has been in regular contact with her, but it will take a series of flights and layovers that all need to happen exactly on time for this visit to have even the smallest chance of occurring. However, in the midst of celebrating, Adam hears some disturbing news that has the potential to be devastating for the family. He will torture himself for the duration of the party and try to put on a happy face as he does not want to ruin his wife’s milestone birthday.

Meanwhile, Livia is facing a different dilemma. She knows how much Adam loves his little girl, and she never would want to see that bond tarnished in any way. So she is debating whether or not to reveal a secret to Adam about Marnie that could change the course of their father/daughter relationship forever.

This is the intriguing setup for THE DILEMMA, and with each hour after grueling hour, readers can agonize along with Livia and Adam as they withhold crucial information from each other. There is an obvious lesson here: It is wrong to keep secrets from family members or tell white lies, even if the goal is to keep the peace or instill a false sense of happiness. It will never end well in the long run, and B. A. Paris takes advantage of the fact that so many of us will be able to relate so easily to Livia and Adam.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on July 2, 2020

The Dilemma
by B. A. Paris