Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Book Review: While You Were Sleeping

The front of While You Were Sleeping bears this tag: "A gripping psychological thriller you just can't put down." So I wondered, as I prepared to write this blog, what makes a really great thriller stand above the rest? But when I googled "qualities of a good thriller," I discovered this Writer's Digest article that clarified the difference between a mystery and a thriller. It says that in a mystery, the protagonist follows clues to solve an already committed crime, while a thriller "details the prevention of a crime before it has been committed." Hmm. That's a distinction I never knew. Still, I think this IS a gripping psychological thriller, instead of merely a mystery. However, I don't know if it carried off all the characteristics of a "good" thriller or even if I agree with the WD list.

At Bookish.com, I found a more compelling list, along with examples of each essential quality. I would say that Kathryn Croft nailed some of these characteristics and failed in others. Her book was a page-turner, but not one that would belong on the Bookish list of quality mysteries and thrillers. While I didn't get a strong sense of place, the novel did have a gripping start (indeed, the premise is what hooked me).

Tara wakes one morning to find she is naked and in her neighbor’s bed. Not only that, her neighbor lies next to her stabbed to death. She has no memory of how she ended up there. The last thing she remembers is enjoying a glass of wine with the neighbor. Intrigued? I was. How's that for opening with an action scene?

The novel also managed a human/flawed hero. Tara attempts to cover up her presence in the neighbor's home and to ferret out the clues for herself. With a clear page-turning pace (another quality), lots of clues are discovered (essential quality) and twists abound. However, here is where I began to feel less-than-satisfied with the execution of this thriller.

Clue after clue mounted, casting suspicion on almost every other character in the book (her unhinged, obsessive daughter, her estranged husband, her husband’s lover, a stalking colleague, the neighbor’s wife, her sister, her sister’s boyfriend, etc., ad infinitum). Suspicions shifted left and right. Yet, I never felt drawn to a single one of the characters and the willful suspension of disbelief was stretched fairly thin. When Tara falls for the inspector, I wanted to throw the book across the room. Lie after lie after lie unraveled in the story, to the point where the reader couldn't rely on anything offered up.

In the end, this novel failed to produce the final quality mentioned in the Bookish article, the quality of making the reader want to read the story all over again. No thank you. Once was enough! It did teach something, however (a quality from the Writer's Digest list). It taught the age-old adages: "the truth shall set you free!" and "oh, the tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive."

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