Title: The Roommate
Author: Caroline Macon Fleischer
Published on: 28 July 2022
Genre: Mystery and Thrillers | Psychological Thriller
What a gripping, intense, suspenseful, completely engrossing and mind-numbing psychological thriller!
The story begins with Donna inheriting her grandmother’s house in California. When she and her mother Addie arrive at the house, Donna feels weird. The pots are at the front of the house – flowers all wilted and dead. She wonders about the weird door at the side. On the first night of her stay, she gets nightmares of someone entering the house through the weird side door.
Her mother’s gone back to Chicago and it’s been a week since Donna’s started her new life at Topanga, California. She starts feeling lonely and a tad depressed. She must find a job to pay the bills. She wonders if getting a roommate might help her ‘lonely’ situation. She puts an advertisement for a roommate in Craigslist – and receives multiple offers. But there is one that stands out from the rest. It is from a man named Joshua Flowers. They agree to meet for coffee.
Joshua Flowers is a small and bald man. As he and Donna spend the evening, chatting and sharing supper, she gets to know a bit about him. She invites him to her place for a looksee and they end up having wine. He tells her she’s okay with the house but he feels it is unfair for Donna to stay rent free while he has to pay. Alarm bells in her mind starts to ring but she refuses to accept that Joshua’s a bad guy.
Joshua agrees to be her roommate the next day. The day after, he moves in when she’s at work. A few days later, she falls and injures her ankle. She calls Joshua for help. He takes her to the hospital and brings her back home and helps her to settle in. While she’s recuperating at home, she wants to take a look at Joshua’s room when he’s away. (On his second day as a roommate, she had observed he had installed a lock for his room – without her permission. )
He comes home that evening and says he will not pay rent because he’s taken care of her and it has caused him a great deal of emotional distress. Donna tries to argue but Joshua’s words are harsh and rude. After a few days, he says his mother has committed suicide and he must go to his hometown for her funeral. He keeps the room unlocked and Donna takes a sneak-peak and finds a snake in the cupboard. When she questions Joshua over video call that evening, he says the snake is his pet.
When Joshua is away (attending his mother’s funeral), Donna meets Cole at her boss’s birthday party. They soon realize they have a lot in common. A couple of weeks after Joshua’s move in, Donna was feeling frustrated and low. Meeting Cole changed her. But when the boyfriend is brought home a few days later, Joshua is not happy.
Donna trusted Joshua the first time they met and she thought they might end up being good friends. But his mask falls off a few weeks later. After that, Donna is subjected to his mood swings. He’s very sweet when he wants to be, and rude when he thinks she’s crossing the ‘boundaries’ he’s set.
Donna did not get any agreement signed from him and six months later, he tells her he’s a legal tenant (as per the law). He’s hardly paid her any rent, subjected her to emotional and mental harassment, stopped her from bringing her boyfriend home, and there is a weird smell in the house since his
Joshua was such an annoying character. I could sympathize with Donna’s helplessness – her only mistake was to trust a stranger. It is easy to say stand up and fight for what’s right but not everybody has the courage to do it. As Joshua’s harassment begins, Donna is unable to fight back. She’s being manipulated but she doesn’t have the courage to take a stand and tell him that he cannot boss around.
Then, she learns something shocking about Joshua. Did she blindly trust someone who could only end up as her worst nightmare?
Excellent storytelling and character development. The story kept me guessing till the end. Speaking of ending – I did not see it coming. There was so much tension and suspense built at the end – and things ended quite explosively for Donna, I must say.
The Roommate by Caroline Macon Fleischer is one of the best psychological thrillers I have read this year. And this book is Caroline’s debut novel. What!!! Absolutely fantastic debut, Caroline!
Many thanks to the lovely Hanna from Joffe Books for sending me a copy of The Roommate.