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Behind the Red Door

A Novel

A haunting thriller” (PopSugar) about a woman who believes that she has a connection to a decades old kidnapping and begins a frantic investigation to find out what really happened when the victim goes missing again.

When Fern Douglas sees the news about Astrid Sullivan, a thirty-four-year-old missing woman from Maine, she is positive that she knows her. Fern’s husband is sure it’s because of Astrid’s famous kidnapping—and equally famous return—twenty years ago, but Fern has no memory of that, even though it happened an hour outside her New Hampshire hometown. And when Astrid appears in Fern’s recurring nightmare, one in which a girl reaches out to her, pleading, Fern fears that it’s not a dream at all, but a memory.

Returning to her childhood home to help her father pack for a move, Fern purchases a copy of Astrid’s recently published memoir—which may have provoked her original kidnapper to abduct her again—and as she reads through its chapters and visits the people and places within it, she discovers more evidence that she has an unsettling connection to the missing woman. With the help of her psychologist father, Fern digs deeper, hoping to find evidence that her connection to Astrid can help the police locate her. But when Fern discovers more about her own past than she ever bargained for, the disturbing truth will change both of their lives forever in this “masterful meditation on fear” (Mindy Mejia, author of Strike Me Down).

Chapter One
Excerpt from Prologue of Behind the Red Door: A Memoir by Astrid Sullivan

You think you know the story. You’ve seen the news coverage, the magazine articles, the true crime episodes dedicated to the Astrid Sullivan Case. You’ve read about the man in the mask, the weeks I spent locked in a basement—gray and dim but for its bright red door. You’ve heard about the curb I was left on, two blocks from my family’s home in Foster, New Hampshire.

There are many things you don’t know, details the police didn’t release and urged me not to speak of. “We always withhold some key information,” they explained. Something about it being easier to find and interrogate suspects. Something about maintaining the integrity of the investigation. For a long time, I played by those rules, trusting what they told me, that justice is slow but inevitable.

But now, it’s been two decades, more than half my life. I’ve stopped believing that the man who took me will ever be caught. In a way, I’ve stopped believing in the police altogether. So this is my story now, the way it always should have been.

Here are some things you don’t know: the type of mask he wore, his clothes, the words we spoke. I know these things matter to you. Reporters have been asking me about them for years. But here’s what matters to me: what I did to make myself vulnerable; what I did in that basement to survive; what I still want to say to the girl who saw the man who took me.

Because, yes, there was such a girl. I know the police have told you there weren’t any witnesses. But there was one. She was ten, maybe eleven years old.

When the police came to question me, I begged them to find her, search every house in America if that’s what it took. She knew what happened. She saw a feature of the man that I never did. But they returned a few days later shaking their heads. They claimed there was no one who’d come forward fitting the description I gave them.

Not long after, I began seeing a therapist, who ended our first session by suggesting that I had imagined the girl, that I’d invented her as a way to cope with the trauma, a way to find some hope to hold on to while I endured my basement nightmare.

When I pleaded with my parents to take me seriously, to help me look for her, to help me get the answers that only she could provide, they stared at me, a skeptical sadness in their eyes that still hurts to remember.

The police wouldn’t let me talk about her. “If she’s real,” they said, “it could jeopardize the investigation to let this go public. Think of all the crazies who would crawl out of the woodwork, claiming this girl is their daughter.”

I didn’t buy their reasons. If she’s real told me everything I needed to know.

But she was there. I’d bet my life on it. My future children’s lives.

She was not a coping strategy. She was not a dream. She was real: the girl who saw everything but never said a word.

Only sometimes, in my darkest hours, do I momentarily doubt this. Only sometimes, for a sliver of a second, do I think she might have been someone else the whole time—me. A ghost of my former self. A girl I still believed should be spared.
Photograph by Tania Palermo

Megan Collins is the author of Behind the Red Door and The Winter Sister. She has taught creative writing for many years at both the high school and college level and is the managing editor of 3Elements Literary Review. She lives in Connecticut.

“Megan Collins has upped her game. Combining a complicated family dynamic with an atmospheric setting and a propulsive plot, this thriller gives me chills with every read.” —Kaitlin O., Editor, on Behind the Red Door

“In Behind the Red Door, Megan Collins has achieved something remarkable—a dark, disturbing story that is both elegant and fascinating. Exquisite writing, compelling characters and a story so captivating I finished it in a weekend. Few books live up to the word chilling, but this one does.”
—Samantha Downing, USA Today bestselling author of My Lovely Wife

"[A] haunting thriller." —PopSugar

“Collins nimbly orchestrates Fern’s growing sense of terror as she slowly sifts in echoes of long-repressed sounds and sights….  A dark psychological thriller riddled with twisted family dynamics.” Kirkus Reviews

"Spellbinding, poignant and atmospheric, Behind The Red Door is one of those rare stories you can get utterly lost in. With writing so richly evocative I could vividly imagine every detail, this is a mesmerizing tale.” Christina McDonald, USA Today bestselling author of The Night Olivia Fell

“In Behind the Red Door, Megan Collins has achieved something remarkable—a dark, disturbing story that is both elegant and fascinating. Exquisite writing, compelling characters and a story so captivating I finished it in a weekend. Few books live up to the word chilling, but this one does.” —Samantha Downing, USA Today bestselling author of My Lovely Wife

"A dark yet elegant crime thriller" Business Insider

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