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: nighttime 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?
Horror After Dark Review
“Even in sunshine there was a bleakness to the island’s beauty that had whispered to her.”
While You Sleep is a book dripping in beautifully written atmosphere and eerie goings-on and features a protagonist who isn’t entirely reliable or likable.
Zoe arrives at a remote island to rent a recently renovated home in Scotland. She’s running from her life for – reasons, and needs some alone time. The neighbors are welcoming and perhaps a little smothering even though she does her best to keep them at arm’s length. She quickly learns that the house where she is staying has a spooky reputation and her attempts to investigate upset some of the locals. When odd events start occurring inside the house; sex dreams, a man who may or not be there, strange voices and other haunting events, no one wants to take her seriously with the exception of an old bookseller and a young teacher who is attracted to her.
So that’s the set up. What follows is a very slow burn but the pace is pretty steady as Zoe and her crew of two attempt to figure out exactly what is happening at the house and dig up what has happened in the past. This may or may not have something to do with a long deceased woman, her dead son and possible experimentation with the occult. There are many descriptive passages of sexy times past and present because there also may or not be an incubus involved here somewhere. This may or may not be your cup of tea, coffee or bourbon but I didn’t mind it. More of it wouldn’t have hurt me any either.
Secrets and hints hide in every nook and cranny of this house and its surrounding cliffs. I figured out a few and a few I didn’t see coming at all (a particularly juicy and scandalous one at that). I admit I was disappointed when I guessed at a big one because I don’t think I’m very good at this kind of thing but that one was so obvious to me. The characterization is strong and detailed and even though I personally didn’t like Zoe very much, and that never changed, because she’s, ummm, imperfect to put it nicely and comes off as self-involved, angry at the wrong people and scatter-brained, I was involved enough with the other characters and their welfare that it wasn’t a stumbling block for me. You can’t like everyone, right? I also NEEDED to know all the secrets and most of them were answered in the end. There’s a pretty big one left dangling though which was a wee bit frustrating after all of the digging and build-up.
I’d give this book a 3.75 on a scale of 1-5. It’s better than average and kept luring me back in whenever I had to put it down to live my life.
I received an ARC from Pegasus Books.
About The Author
(Also writes under the pseudonym S.J. Parris)
Stephanie Merritt (born 1974 in Surrey) to Jim and Rita Merritt is a critic and feature writer for various publications including The Times, the Daily Telegraph, the New Statesman, Zembla and Die Welt. She has also been Deputy Literary Editor and a staff writer at The Observer.
Merritt graduated in English from Queens’ College, Cambridge in 1996. Prior to this, she attended Godalming College in Surrey.
She is the author of two novels, Gaveston (Faber & Faber) which won a Betty Trask Award of £4,000 from the Society of Authors in 2002 [2:], and Real (2005), for which she is currently writing a screenplay. She has also written a memoir, The Devil Within, published by Vermilion is 2008, which discusses her experiences living with depression.
Meritt has appeared regularly as a critic and panellist on BBC Radio 4 and BBC7, has been a judge for the BBC and Channel 4 new comedy awards as well as the Perrier Award, and appeared as interviewer and author at various literary festivals, as well as the National Theatre and the English National Opera.
Visit her website here: http://www.sjparris.com/