I read A LOT of mysteries, thrillers, crime fiction and the like. It’s rare that there’s something completely new… in fact, I sometimes read so many involving protagonists forced to return to a scene / their hometown where a sibling / friend (etc) disappeared decades earlier, I tend to mix-up the plot in question.
That’s not to say I don’t still enjoy those books. I obviously request them so there’s something about long-held dark secrets that leap out at me… in a non literal sense of course. This debut novel by Liz Lawler, however offered up something a little different. It starts with a fathomless crime; one that is a little far-fetched and hard to believe.
Don't Wake Up
by Liz Lawler
Published by Bonnier Zaffre, Twenty7 Books
on January 2nd 2018
Source: Allen & Unwin
Genres: Psychological Thriller, Thriller / Suspense
Alex Taylor wakes up tied to an operating table.
The man who stands over her isn't a doctor.
The offer he makes her is utterly unspeakable.
But when Alex re-awakens, she's unharmed - and no one believes her horrifying story. Ostracised by her colleagues, her family and her partner, she begins to wonder if she really is losing her mind.
And then she meets the next victim.
Readers have two choices when reading this book. We can believe Alex (an ER doctor) and everything she’s telling us; or we can hold back a little… wondering if there’s going to be a twist. If you’re like me you’re thinking dissociative personality disorder (ie. that she’s got an alternate personality), or perhaps like her friends and even her therapist, that something else lies beneath her most recent suppositions. That she’s not lying as such… just confused and traumatised.
The blurb implies the case following her own bizarre ‘abduction’ is obvious in its similarity. But it isn’t really. It’s vague, so we’re not entirely sure if there IS another victim. Which gives us more reason to doubt Alex’s word; and exactly what the police, her colleagues, friends and boyfriend do.
After all, Alex’s story is preposterous. That she’s drugged (with a chloroform hanky over the nose, like in the movies – which apparently doesn’t actually work in real life!), transferred onto an operating table where she drops in and out of consciousness, has threats made against her (which I must confess I didn’t really understand) and then returned where she was last seen… as if she’s merely had a fall or hit or head?
It makes no sense. (Not even to Alex, incidentally.)
We soon learn something’s happened in the past and I must admit I was initially a tad confused about the backstory. It took a while to get to it and so – for a while – I felt as if I was in the dark and wondered if I’d missed something. (If it’d been a series I would have assumed it had happened in a previous novel and we were expected to know about it.)
However… if one is patient (which I’m obviously not) we learn why this event particularly impacts on Alex now; and why even some of her closest friends doubt her story. It’s not that they think she’s lying – unlike a dogged and ambitious young police officer who’s determined to pin ‘something’ on Alex – they just think the events of her past are being replayed now. Post traumatic stress response, or similar.
This debut novel, set in the UK, is really well paced and by the end I couldn’t turn the pages quickly enough. It was a great read – though there were a couple of plot holes I only remembered when writing this – they didn’t impact on my enjoyment of the novel. It’s very much a psychological thriller and we’re not exactly sure who to believe. I had my suspicions but Lawler does a good job of keeping us guessing.
Don’t Wake Up by Liz Lawler was published in Australia by Allen & Unwin and is now available.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.