By: Chris Bohjalian
Publisher: Doubleday Books
Publication Date: 1/5/2016
My Rating: 5 Stars +
A special thank you to Doubleday Books and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Chris Bohjalian delivers another gripping page-turner suspense, THE GUEST ROOM -- a mix of crime, psycho, and mystery thriller. From moral consequences to the raising of awareness of the exploitation of our teens across the world, in an all “too realistic” and timely story-- a series of violent events which could happen to any American family today.
When a suburban family crosses with a deadly remorseless human trafficking and sexual slavery ring--innocent people are caught in the cross fires. Life and family relationships, as they know it will never be the same, after one night of destruction-- a simple bachelor party spirals out of control. Violence enters a safe home.
Told from the POV’s of three well developed characters:
• Richard Chapman-- the good upstanding prosperous husband, investment banker, and loving father.
• Kristin Chapman-Richard’s wife, a remarkable woman, a history teacher, and a mother of their nine-year-old daughter, Melissa.
• Lastly, Alexander (Nevart)—a young Armenian woman taken against her will at age fifteen; held captive all these years. Brought to America, now nineteen-year old sex slave, held by the underworld of dangerous Russian gangsters. (a sad emotional back story)
Richard and Kristin have a good and prosperous life in the burbs. They have an upscale home, status, art, and material possessions. A good marriage with a nine -year-old daughter, Melissa who has the best of the best. She is guarded from life’s ugliness. Richard is an upstanding citizen, and partner at an investment firm.
Richard’s younger brother —Philip, has no morals (total jerk). He works in the hotel business and some of this friends, mainly Spencer - bad news. He is getting married and Richard is his best man. Spencer has taken care arranging the strippers for his party.
Richard decides to host the bachelor party at his home. He thinks it will be a safer cleaner night, (right)? with the guys at his home, versus a club, so he can control things. Kristin his wife, knows there will be the possibility of a stripper; however, she thinks a dance or two, drinking, and then the guys will go home—guys do this all the time. Harmless?
Kristin and Melissa are staying overnight in Manhattan with her mom and they plan to go home the following day, and by then Richard will have the house back, in order.
Unfortunately, Richard's well laid plan spirals out of control. A nightmare. Who could have imagined?
Two strippers show up at the party with two Russian bodyguards. Richard thinks they will help keep things under control. However, things sexually get out of control, things go too far, the girls are young, and the next thing he knows there is a blood bath all over his living room---two murdered Russians, stabbing, gunshot, and the two girls take off. All their lives are in danger -- his house is now a murder crime scene.
In reality, the two 19-year-olds from Armenia, abducted as teenagers, held captive as sex slaves in Russia throughout their adolescence, and then brought to New York City where the captors know their value as sexual assets will soar. They are held hostage. They now have escaped; however, you do not just escape from these dangerous men. They own you.
Soon Richard’s marriage is strained, his life is in shambles; his daughter does not respect him, his wife does not trust him. The community, his business, his clients …. all in ruin. The kids at school are talking bad about her family. The scandal, the shame, and the disgrace. Sex, crime, drunkenness, murder. Now sex trafficking. How could this have happened? Even though he confides in his wife, can his wife really trust him and what really went on in the guest room? Did he have sex or did he want to? To further complicate, someone has a video and blackmailing begins.
Richard is haunted by this girl who got away. What is her story? Her sad eyes. He thinks of his own innocent daughter. These girls were not ordinary strippers. How can he help? Why can’t the girls escape these evil men?
Wow, this is one fine novel! Movie-worthy. A master storyteller, Bohjalian delves into the relationships of family, love, betrayal, forgiveness and redemption. Intense. You cannot put it down. You come to care about the three main characters. You sympathize with their circumstances. Not only do you want a husband like Richard, you want to be his wife, Kristin. Your heart goes out to Alexandra’s complex story -- you want her to escape and get the help she needs.
Unfortunately, it is all too real today --around us everywhere, masked in many ways with numerous disguises. These girls did not willingly sign up for this life. They were innocent children.
There are many parallels: Good versus Evil
• Barbie’s: The innocence of the young girl, Alexandra with her Barbie dolls, similar to Richard’s own daughter’s Barbie dolls. How Melissa’s room with Barbie’s were tainted with the ugliness. How Alexandra came to attain these dolls. Her parents, grandmother.
• Dancing: Her dreams of dancing as a young girl just like Melissa. How dancing led her grandmother to put her in the care of this madman.
• The Guest Room: While Richard is in the guest room of his own home, being sexually tempted by this mysterious young woman, his wife is in the guest room of her mother’s Manhattan apartment, when she receives the call about the double murder at their home, now a crime scene.
• Bachelor: Also the American dream references of the show, The Bachelor. The fairy tale --compared to the ugliness of realistic Phillip’s bachelor party and the girls' horrific situation.
The author does an outstanding job with the sex-trafficking topics, his in-depth research--prominent among our everyday lives. How the two connect -- an innocent family—a sex trafficking ring. Good versus evil. How these men use their vulnerabilities to their advantage; and reel them in, not knowing they cannot trust them or escape. Some are so young, as Alexandra, she thinks this is a family friend.
I recently read another series; recommend: Sylvie Fox (Casey Cort Series-Attorney), Under Color of Law and In Plain Sight.(Legal/political thriller) which ties in the sex trafficking. Both authors demonstrate how young girls get pulled in, how they prey upon the weak, and most girls are so young and naïve they have no clue what is happening until it is too late --they cannot escape.
Whereas with THE GUEST ROOM, the girls were brought to America by Russians, and given a more upscale glamorous accommodation and wealthy men clients (black/whites). In Plain Sight, you get the down and dirty in the US. Young poor abducted teens in bad abusive families already. they are befriended by older teen boys or early twenties and treat them like a girlfriend, or an older brother. They hang out at parks or malls and seek out their prey--they are nice and buy them food. They are girls who will not be missed by traditional families. They keep them coming back until they earn their trust, then it starts. They are turned over to their bosses. What I found interesting is with both books, these rings are masked as businessmen, cops, and politicians.
Next thing the girls know; they are locked in a room with a lineup of men. They have no way to escape. Most of the time, their mom’s boyfriends, step fathers, or step brothers are molesting them and have been raping them for years and no one believes them. They are escaping one hell and into something worse, out of desperation. Most of the time, as in this book, their clients are cops, so they do not know who to trust. They turn to alcohol, drugs, or suicide to dull the pain. Lives are destroyed. If they do escape, who will believe them, or can they get out alive.
Interesting, both use hotels or motels as their home base, until the cops get on their trail and then they put them in containers or pods--and lock them in with no electricity until they come to get them for their next John. Their clients are abusive and violent-low end thugs. Some even set them up in their homes and use another business to hide behind.
The Guest Room is one of my Top Books of 2016—My hope is more authors will join fight against sex trafficking --address these issues, to raise the awareness of human trafficking and sexual slavery, even fiction as well as non-fiction. A wake- up call to parents and teens, as well.
Would urge you to visit the author’s website to learn the inspiration behind the book, and for more detailed information about sexual exploitation around the world. The figures are alarming.