I’ve been procrastinating a bit on this Recent Reads because I wasn’t sure how to mention these three thrillers without risking revealing any of the twists! I chose to group these three books together because they were all thrillers released in the past year or so that have to do with a character with sleep disturbances. Two of these books had been high on my list to read last year, but I somehow didn’t get to them in time and decided to prioritize both this year instead. The third was a book by one of my priority authors for this year. As I mentioned in my previous Recent Reads, one of my goals for this year was to read more thrillers overall. At this point, I am now a quarter of the way to my goal with 10 thrillers read so far, out of my minimum goal of reading 40! Thrillers are one of my favourite genres but I somehow always find myself reading fewer than I’d expect given how many of them I have on my reading challenge plans each year. As much as I love to read thrillers, I don’t always like reading so many back-to-back since they start to blend together a bit, especially when they have some similarities in their premises. However, in this case, I was very excited to finally have the chance to read all three of these books which were already so high on my list!
It may be a bit of a stretch to call this one “recent” since I read it all the way back at the end of March, but the first sleep-themed thriller that I read was Stay Awake, a book which had been on my 5-star predictions for last year and I was disappointed that I didn’t get to it. I didn’t get a copy of this book until much too late in the year, so I ended up pushing it back. Luckily, when I finally did pick it up, I ended up loving it! This book drew me in immediately with the author’s writing style, and I loved how she alternated between the perspectives of the main character Liv and the two detectives. For those who may not have heard of it, this book is about a woman named Liv who wakes up in a cab with no memory of how she got there, and the words “stay awake” written on her hands. Liv soon sees a news report of a brutal murder with a similar message written on the window, and finds herself on the run for a crime she can’t remember committing. I was generally more invested in Liv’s chapters overall because of how she was trying to piece together her memory of what happened and why she couldn’t remember. I did find the detectives a little annoying at times, especially because there was one detail they seemed to get stuck on that I thought they really should have been able to pick up on. I don’t really use the word “page-turner” to describe books very often, but it definitely fits for this one! It was very fast-paced and had short chapters which really kept the story moving and also kept me wanting to find out what happened next. While I did feel the book lost a little momentum toward the end, I also thought that might have been because I’d read it spaced over 4 days and could easily see myself enjoying it that much more if I’d been able to read straight through. I also noticed some awkwardness in the writing style toward the end that hadn’t seemed to be there the rest of the way through, however I loved the twists and reveals toward the end and had a great time with this book overall. This was my third time reading a thriller by this author, and although none have quite hit 5 stars for me yet, they’ve all been pretty close.
The second sleep disturbance-related thriller that I read fairly recently was Insomnia, and I actually intentionally wanted to read this one back-to-back (or close to it) with Stay Awake because I thought the contrast between a character who couldn’t fall asleep and a character who had to force themselves to stay awake was kind of funny. This book is about a woman named Emma who fears having the same kind of mental breakdown that her mother did upon turning 40, especially when she starts to notice the same signs of insanity in herself, causing her to worry that she might become a danger to her family just like her mother did. I had a little bit of a hard time with the prologue since it seemed so disconnected from the rest of the book at first, but got into it very quickly once the “main” story started and I loved the way the author captured Emma’s experience of insomnia. I loved how the author included flashbacks to Emma’s childhood with her mother and her sister Phoebe, and found many of her memories so creepy. I loved how the author slowly revealed details of what had happened to Emma in the past and genuinely seemed to call into question whether Emma could now be losing her mind too. I also loved the very realistic dynamics between Emma and her frustrated husband Robert as her paranoia seemed to grow the closer her birthday got. I loved the creepiness of Emma’s behaviour and how it was viewed by those around her, especially her young son Will. While I did enjoy the ultimate twists and definitely did not predict them, I also somehow found it a little underwhelming in a way I couldn’t quite put my finger on. However, I think it may be relevant to note that I was reading this book during a weekend where I’d learned that a participant in the day program I work for had suddenly died and I attended the funeral, so that naturally had an impact on my ability to read and enjoy things. I still ended up rating this book 4.5 stars, but it is another one that is arguably very, very close to a 5.
Very recently, I intentionally picked up a third sleep disturbance-themed thriller with the intent of discussing all three of these together, although to be fair, this book was already very high on my list to read anyway. Earlier this month, I read All the Dangerous Things, which is about a mother named Isabelle who has not slept more than a small catnap since her infant son Mason was kidnapped from her home a year ago. Isabelle teams up with the host of a true crime podcast in hopes of finding some new leads on her case, and in the process uncovers memories from her own childhood which make her question what really happened to her son. I’ll admit I was in a tiny bit of a reading slump when I picked this one up since I had recently read quite a few very long books, but luckily that did not affect my enjoyment of this one too much. This is my second book by this author, and once again, her writing style gripped me right from the start and I loved the way she built Izzy’s investigations into Mason’s disappearance, especially some of the commentary offered about the true crime community in general. I also enjoyed how the author slowly revealed more details about Izzy’s husband as well as about her childhood over the course of the book, although a few of the reveals seemed a bit sudden. I was also very pleasantly surprised that I hadn’t been able to predict the ending despite having about 3 separate theories about what could have happened, although arguably that could also be interpreted as the ending being a bit out of nowhere. While I wouldn’t quite say this book gripped me as much as this author’s debut A Flicker in the Dark, I still really enjoyed it and I would definitely be interested in trying more by this author in the future.