Before I Wake is C. L. Taylor's debut novel. And I have to tell you - it's really good.
Present day. Susan sits by a hospital bed, hoping her comatose daughter will wake up. It was a dreadful accident, Charlotte stepping out in front of the bus like that. Or so Susan thought until she found Charlotte's diary - and the cryptic line - "This secret is killing me."
Taylor then cuts the narrative to the past and we are privy to Susan's diary, before she married and had Charlotte. The journal is troubling and worrisome, giving the reader a good idea of where Susan's life might be headed. We want to shake Susan out of her fantasy world but we can only keep reading as things deteriorate.
And just at a pivotal moment, Taylor switches back to the present. Susan needs to know the secret her daughter was keeping. Maybe, just maybe, by discovering the truth, she can help Charlotte wake up. But her attempts to ferret out the truth have her lying to her husband, badgering Charlotte's friends and more. She begins to dig up small tidbits of information, but no one believes her. In fact, they all think she's having an 'episode'. After all, it wouldn't be the first time would it?
Present day Susan is an unreliable narrator We just never really know if she is telling the truth or telling the truth as she imagines it to be. But her earlier diary is quite the opposite. And is in fact, quite frightening in the scenario that Taylor portrays.
Taylor's characters are all quite well drawn and definitely evoke reactions from the reader. Although the main plot idea has been done before, Taylor adds enough spin to make it her own. I quite enjoyed the past and present timeline and the cliffhanging chapter endings. The suspense starts in the first few pages and doesn't let up until the very end. (Although, it did keep me reading long past the time I should have shut off the light.)
Before I Wake was an excellent psychological suspense read. Taylor herself has a degree in psychology and that knowledge is used very effectively at building her story, in both timelines.
A recommended read and I'll be watching for Taylor's second book.
Read the first chapter of Before I Wake. You can find C. L. Taylor on Facebook and on Twitter.