Avon | 2019 (21 March) | c.400p | Review copy | Buy the book
Anna has been tormented by insomnia ever since surviving a terrible road accident. She finds her life difficult to cope with in the aftermath and, to make things even worse, she can’t help thinking that she is being followed. Or is this just guilt pursuing her every wakeful thought? Anna is determined to escape and so she heads about as far away as she can. She takes a job as a receptionist in the small Bay View Hotel on the remote Scottish island of Rum. Her job will be to assist the manager David with the guests who arrive to take part in hikes across the island’s glorious peaks. But, along with the first group of seven tourists, arrives a storm that will soon cut the hotel off from the rest of the island, while phone and internet signals will also fail.
Trapped within the hotel, it’s not long before the personalities emerge of each of the guests and Anna realises that she is surrounded by secrets. She wasn’t the only one who fled to the island to escape a past. But, just when she thinks it couldn’t get any worse, it really does and Anna must face the terrible truth that her stalker has followed her to Rum.
Sleep has a fantastic premise and, after starting it late one evening, I was pulled right in and only emerged with 60% of it read in one sitting. It undoubtedly tells a compelling story as it moves between our heroine Anna and the perspectives of others in her life, notably her ex-partner, and in her story. This sort of structure usually moves a story along and it does a good job of doing that here.
I was definitely enticed by the setting on the island. I’m very partial to mysteries set on islands, as my reading this year attests. This does, though, mean that this is a rather popular setting for novels and I’m not sure that Sleep treats the stormy landscape as well as others that I’ve read. And unfortunately I didn’t enjoy the second half of the novel as much as the first. I’ve been thinking about why that is and I think it’s mostly because the story is, for me, overladen with red herrings and twists. It’s almost like it’s working too hard and that it’s also playing with us. I know that most people have really loved this book and so I think this may be something to do with me and my attitude towards psychological novels. I’ve just read too many of them and I’m suspicious of their games. I won’t give anything away but I also really didn’t like the final page.
Nevertheless, C.L. Taylor writes well and I think that Sleep will be a popular read, especially for those who have read fewer psychological thrillers! It’s certainly gripping and extremely hard to put down.