Book Review: While You Sleep by Stephanie Merritt

While You Sleep - Stephanie Merrit

If you like your psychological thrillers to contain elements of the paranormal, look no further than While You Sleep.

Book Description:

A pacy, chilling psychological thriller, set to reinvent the genre.

It begins, they say, with a woman screaming…

On a remote Scottish island, the McBride house stands guard over its secrets. A century ago, a young widow and her son died mysteriously there; just last year a local boy, visiting for a dare, disappeared without a trace.

For Zoe Adams, newly arrived from America, the house offers a refuge from her failing marriage. But her peaceful retreat is disrupted by strange and disturbing events: night-time intrusions; unknown voices; a constant sense of being watched.

The locals want her to believe that these incidents are echoes of the McBrides’ dark past. Zoe is convinced the danger is closer at hand, and all too real – but can she uncover the truth before she is silenced?

My Thoughts:

Confession: I read this book because “It begins, they say, with a woman screaming…” – now that’s a sure-fire way to get my attention, who is this woman and why is she screaming!? While You Sleep is marketed as a psychological thriller, it’s paranormal heavy and contains a good mystery.

As the blurb indicates, this novel has a haunted house vibe to it, and Zoe is about to get caught in the midst of it. Zoe is an “outsider” and is very much treated like one by some of the locals, and this made me warm to her character quickly because I felt she needed an ally. What I really liked about this novel was, not only was Zoe about to get entangled in this town’s history, but she arrived with secrets of her own. And you don’t even realise the knock-on effect of her own secrets until Merritt decides to fill you in.

What I didn’t expect, when I picked up this novel, was it to have such a heavy gothic romance element, there were no plot holes discovered but the way some of these encounters were written was not to my liking. That’s purely a personal preference but I’m not a fan of these explicit encounters, not that they were too graphic in detail, rather, just not my cup of [reading] tea.

The paranormal elements in this book didn’t unsettle me completely, but I’d be lying if I said they didn’t make me wary, didn’t make me extremely grateful that I don’t live in a remote location. For me, the majority of the thrills came from Zoe, not only staying on a remote island, but living so far from her neighbours, knowing if anything went wrong, help was at least twenty minutes away, and that’s if she’s even able to summon help in the first place.

Overall, I enjoyed this novel, but it didn’t keep me engaged throughout; I did find it a bit long-winded, in the sense that things felt a bit stagnant in the middle and I was left waiting for the grand finale for too long. And I’ll hold my hands up, I did skim-read a few pages. But, when the finale came, it was very good – a twist I didn’t see coming that allowed me to see how clever this story was plotted.

I did really enjoy the setting of this novel, the remote location and use of Scottish dialect – reading words such as “cannae” out loud is a must! Stephanie Merritt is best known for her historical fiction books, writing the Giordano Bruno series, as S. J. Parris. Her knowledge and experience of writing historical fiction is evident in this novel, so if you often read historical fiction but want to branch into psychological thrillers, this may be the book for you.

This book is available to buy from Amazon UK / Book Depository (Publication date: 08/03/18)

*My thanks to the publisher (HarperCollins) for granting me access to a digital copy of this title via Netgalley*

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