Book review: Sleep by CL Taylor

Wednesday, March 27, 2019 Permalink

I enjoyed this book by UK author CL Taylor and ended up reading the entire thing in one sitting.

There were a few pacing issues for me, which seems to be something I’m mentioning a bit lately… perhaps it’s me – the common denominator – becoming pedantic. Or forgetful. I should also mention I had an early electronic copy so it wasn’t always clear when scenes finished and started. That aside though, it’s an intriguing novel. Not scary as such, but readers are presented with a likeable lead character who we come to care about and whose life is at risk… so there’s some suspense thrown in.

Book review: Sleep by CL TaylorSleep
by C.L. Taylor
Published by HarperCollins Publishers Australia
on March 21st 2019
Source: NetGalley
Genres: Thriller / Suspense
ISBN: 9780008221034
Pages: 400

All Anna wants is to be able to sleep. But crushing insomnia, terrifying night terrors and memories of that terrible night are making it impossible. If only she didn’t feel so guilty…

To escape her past, Anna takes a job at a hotel on the remote Scottish island of Rum, but when seven guests join her, what started as a retreat from the world turns into a deadly nightmare.

Each of the guests have a secret but one of them is lying – about who they are and why they’re on the island. There’s a murderer staying in the Bay View hotel. And they’ve set their sights on Anna.

Seven strangers. Seven secrets. One deadly lie.

Someone’s going to sleep and never wake up…

I really liked Anna. The book does alternate narrators, but it’s Anna we spend the most time with, and engage with the most. She’s a sympathetic character and devastated by her role in a car accident that resulted in the death of colleagues. She can’t move on, hamstrung by guilt and fear that the father of one of the men killed is stalking her.

Anna is cleared of blame by the police and courts. It should be cut and dry with responsibility for the accident clearly allocated elsewhere, but the dead man’s father wants revenge, not justice. He’s not going to make it easy for we readers either, as it’s not him we have to watch out for, instead he’s hired someone to seek vengeance.

Hence the escape from her old life for the tiny island of Rum, with a population of 31, but a popular destination for tourists wanting to hike and commune with nature.

It’s there we meet our potential killers.

I should mention the book opens with a ‘if you are reading this I’ve been murdered’ type letter from Anna. It confused me a little as we then flip backwards to the accident that changed her life and lead up to it. I initially assumed the ‘retreat’ she and her colleagues were returning from was the one she mentions in the opening letter.

But – spoiler, but not quite a spoiler – it’s an entirely different event and time. Completely separate from the life she lived before the accident. Anna’s escaped her guilt and fear of being stalked by working at the small hotel on the remote island in Scotland. (But has she…..? #dumdum)

And we finally meet our suspects. Agatha Christie-style we’re introduced to them one by one as they arrive at the hotel, and over coming days (as they’re trapped by a storm) Anna becomes increasingly fearful. Anonymous messages about ‘sleep’ started appearing when she was still in London. She can’t sleep though and isn’t sure if she’s being taunted, or if she’s being threatened.

Of course the fact we’ve read the letter in the opening chapter means that something has happened and Taylor ekes out the ‘what’ (and the who) over the course of the book.

Like Agatha Christie, our limited suspect pool offers up an obvious guest or two. But, there may be some surprises afoot.

As a Christie fan I liked the way Taylor introduces the group and the secrets we slowly uncover about each. There’s an obvious red herring and I think I would have preferred that ‘reveal’ to take place later in the book, though guess it builds tension re alternative motives and suspects.

I mentioned the timing in my opening paragraph. It may have been the early copy of the electronic version I had… but it seemed as if Anna arrived on the same day as the guests. The hotel owner David, drops her off and heads off to get other guests. But on their arrival she’s familiar with the hotel and check-in system. And then, on what I thought was day two, the one and only neighbour comments on David singing her praises. She later mentions having been there 10 days (which would have been several days before the guests’ arrival.)

And then the transition between scenes was a bit odd. One minute Anna’s in her bedroom, looking out the window after a shower clad only in her towel, and then someone’s walking in the door. I waited for a comment about the inappropriateness, but was then obvious she’s now in reception. Again this could be because the paragraphs in my version simply followed on from one to the other and didn’t have obvious breaks between scenes. (Hopefully this isn’t an issue in the final version.)

I have to admit I wasn’t sure about the ultimate reveal. I’d thought Taylor was going in a different direction entirely (not the dead man’s father but… well, I can’t say, cos perhaps we’re supposed to think what I thought!)

Although slightly disappointed in the end, I still enjoyed this enough to want to know who’d ‘dunnit’ so think it’ll be popular with fans of mysteries and suspense.

Sleep by CL Taylor was published by Harper Collins and now available (NB. some ‘release’ dates mention late March, some early April!)

I received an electronic copy of this book for review purposes. 


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