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While You Sleep by Stephanie Merritt – a review

I was recently sent a copy of this from the publisher. When I’d originally agreed to read it the name hadn’t rung any bells. So it wasn’t until I received a copy of the book that it clicked Stephanie Merritt was SJ Parris, an author who I had had the pleasure of joining for dinner a few years ago at the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival.

It begins, they say, with a woman screaming… Well in the case of While You Sleep in begins with Zoe arriving on a remote Scottish island from America. She wants to get away from her marriage and is hoping that some time away from everything will help restart her painting career. However things within the house are not as peaceful as she hopes. She starts hearing singing and ghostly happenings, which gets worse as she starts to learn more about the spooky history of the McBride house.

This was a really intriguing story that certainly kept my interest even though I’m not usually a fan of supernatural twists. However to me the supernatural element was very small and almost felt like an extra element rather than a way of making unbelievable things happen as can often be the case.

I have recently read a few novels that use a similar plot device (which I can’t say as I don’t want to give anything away) so I did guess partly one of the big twists. Yet this didn’t spoil my enjoyment in anyway.

I must confess to finding the sex scenes all a bit gratutuous, I understand the reasoning behind them in order to build up the suspense. Yet for me personally they just felt a bit at odds with the rest of the book. However the rest of the novel more than made up for it. The setting of this novel on a small remote island is incredibly evocative. The descriptions are suitably earie evoking the feeling of claustrophobia and isolation that is heightened by our main character arriving from America and settling into a place that is so different from where she has come from.

This is great story that keeps you interested until the end. I would recommend it to anyone who likes stories where the place plays as big a part as the characters.  


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