Before I Go to Sleep by S. J. Watson

Memories define us. So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep? Your name, your identity, your past, even the people you love – all forgotten overnight. And the one person you trust may only be telling you half the story. Welcome to Christine’s life.

S J Wilson debut novel Before I Go To Sleep has gained much attention while its release in 2011, so popular that its film rights has been snatched up by Ridley Scott due release in late 2014.  A taut psychological thriller, Before I Go To Sleep narrates a story of Christine Lucas, who each morning looks in the mirror to find her face aged by time she can’t recall passing, while a strange man, who claims to be her loving husband, Ben, patiently explains she experienced a traumatic brain injury nearly two decades ago and as a result suffers a rare type of amnesia obliterating much of her past and able to accumulate memories only for as long as she remains awake. As each day wears on, Christine struggles to understand what has happened to her, until, each day, Dr Nash calls and reminds her to read her journal, secreted in a shoebox in her wardrobe. A journal where underneath her name, on the very first page, she has written ‘DON’T TRUST BEN’. Thus begins Christine journey to find out the truth about herself and her past.

Before I got to Sleep, is a mesmerizing page-turner, the kind of book which keeps the reader up all well. One wonders, who is Christine really? What causes her amnesia? And who is Ben, the only man in her life upon whom she is totally dependent. Can she trust her intuition? The novel’s premise required that the reader occasionally know more than Christine knows as she seeks answer to these questions by herself and Watson has done good job of injecting the necessary information while at the same time maintaining the suspense for readers.

 Rating: 3.9/5


CHILD 44 by Tom Rob Smith


“Trust but check. Check on those we trust.” 

Child 44, a suspenseful and fast read, this novel captures beautifully well what it feels like to live in a dictatorial police state, in a way where a person must think in order to survive. Tom Smith clearly delineates the detective’s line of thought, along with the characters thoughts, to show that way of thinking which then defines actions.

Child 44 is set up in the 1950’s era of Soviet Union. A child was found dead with soil in his mouth and his family are sure that it is a murder case despite the boy’s body was found on the railway track. Leo Demidov, the protagonist/detective, is an MGB agent is sent to calm things and to pursue the family that this is nothing more than a tragic accident. Since the USSR has no crime, the boy’s death is ruled as an accident- a tragic one. But the boy’s death haunts Demidov, and when he comes across identical murder in small town of USSR, he decides to investigate further and find the killer.

This is a fascinating story, set in winter’s to begin and ends up in the height of summer’s heat. Smith switches point of view in interchanging paragraphs at many times which is handled like a pro by him, making very clearly whose POV he’s at each occurrence which could have led to dreadful confusion.  But what was confusing at time was the time of day it is- author does not make this point very clearly, specifically at the beginning of scenes.  There were times when wondered how Leo is doing things in the dead of night, but it turned out to be midday.  What else was missing was richly described settings. Russia has its own very rich landscape of beauty, the very magnificent and almost spiritual forests which could have added to Leo’s love for his country and deepening his character.

Tom Smith has carefully shown the psychology of people living in a totalitarian police state, but missed the mark with the psychological problem of serial killer. His serial killer character Andrei is far too rational, too self-aware and without any motivating inner fantasy to be convincing killer. The murders are about sending messages than showing the powerlessness Andrei feels- indeed most of the characters feel powerless in the face of the State and – a serial killer need domination, power and control to be a freak killer. Many serial killings are also sex crimes even when rape is not involved but there was little indication on this when reading Andrei’s POV.

The essence of thriller depends upon its plausibility. However, this could have been close to a perfect thriller were it not for some exciting, interesting but to the ultimately implausible events towards the end of the book.

For the first novel, Tom Smith’s Child 44 is an interesting, fun read. Tom Smith writing is good and looking forward for its other 2 books – The Secret Speech & Agent 6.

Rating: 3.9/5

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