Before I Go To Sleep – S. J. Watson

Setting: Crouch End, London, England, UK. (Yes, I have broken free of the Scandinavian crime fiction genre – at least temporarily.

Story: Christine Lucas has amnesia; a particular type which causes her to wake up every morning, unable to remember who she is, where she is, and the important details of her life. Who is the person next to her in the bed? Why does she look like a fifty year old when she feels like twenty-five?

“Because I have no memory. According to Ben, according to the doctor I met this afternoon, tonight, as I sleep, my mind will erase everything I know today. Everything I did today. I will wake up tomorrow as I did this morning. Thinking I am still a child. Thinking I still have a whole lifetime of choice ahead of me. And then I will find out, again, that I am wrong. My choices have already been made. Half my life is behind me.

The Good Stuff: This is one of those rare books that lives up to the term “page-turner”. From the opening and setting of the scene of Christine Lucas’ world, the reader is pulled into her strange world, tinged with dark foreboding, as she explores her past and her present. The novel is well structured, tightly written and superbly paced. The twists and turns – some slight, some severe – are disclosed in well timed fashion, as the story builds to its climax.

More Good Stuff: Much of the book is Christine’s journal, and everything is seen through her perspective. The author does an outstanding job of putting the reader into Christine’s shoes. The writing is acutely sensitive to Christine’s condition and her situation, and manages to balance introspection with the telling of the story. The central premise is a good one, and the author does a very good job of wringing a suspenseful tale out of it.

Not So Good Stuff: It was too easy to guess the key plot twist. (It could have been a lucky guess, but I expect many regular readers of crime books to unlock the puzzle quickly.) Once or twice, I found it more than usually difficult to suspend my disbelief at developments. I won’t spoil the plot, because I may be nitpicking; generally, the book held together very well. Also, the ending ties everything up neatly; too neatly, perhaps.

Score: 7/10