Are You Awake?


Title: Are You Awake?

Author: Claire McGowan

Year: 2022

Genre: Mystery, Psychological Thriller, Suspense, Thriller

Are You Awake tells the story of a missing girl and two witnesses who both think they saw her. However can they both trust what they saw with their own eyes? The book was available for free as part of Amazon Prime Reading and I had seen it mentioned on Bookstagram a few times, so I decided to check it out.

The book begins briefly from the perspective of Samantha Ellis, the missing girl. She is locked in a room with a man who puts his hand to her throat. Meanwhile we meet our two protagonists.

Mary is a sleep-deprived mother of two currently on maternity leave from her job as a solicitor. She is nursing her baby son in the middle of the night when out of the corner of her eye she spots a violent action happening in one of the houses across the park where she takes her kids.

Tim is a neighbour of Mary’s, he lives alone and he is a journalist on medical leave, dealing with PTSD and insomnia from a traumatic event he experienced in Syria, where a woman he loved was murdered. On the same night he also witnesses the violent moment in one of the houses across the park.

On a subsequent night both decide to go to investigate the house and bump into each other where they decide to find answers together. On the radio they hear reports about the missing girl, Samantha Ellis and believe it is her they saw. However Mary’s marriage is under strain and she begins to doubt her own mind and Tim’s but as they get closer to the truth, it may be more shocking then they imagined.

I really enjoyed this thriller from Claire McGowan and it is the first book I have read of hers. The story is told mainly through the perspectives of Mary and Tim and both characters are very interesting unreliable narrators.

We learn very quickly both are suffering from sleep deprivation for different reasons so as a result it makes us ask questions of them and their version of events. It is very similar to stories like The Girl On The Train and The Woman In The Window in that respect and is used to really good effect here. 

Both protagonists are well written and their characters leap from the page. Mary is the tired, exhausted mother of young parents, jealously looking at her peers and how they seem to “have it all” whilst she appears to be floundering. She also feels like she has lost some of her identity as a solicitor as her bosses have recruited a younger model to replace her during her maternity leave and it is these insecurities which drive her into doing something this dangerous.

Tim for me was a far more interesting character out of the two, He was a journalist and had spent years of his life running into danger without thinking of the consequences, until it caught up with him and the woman he loved, Miriam was murdered. The PTSD from this traumatic event and also being ousted from his role at  newspaper drives him into investigating the disappearance so that he can claim the scoop for his own.  However Tim’s insomnia cause him to have blackouts which makes for very exciting twists.

Therefore both characters are using Samantha’s disappearance as a way of finding themselves and their identity.

The book also users some very modern themes as part of the back story of Samantha’s disappearance – she is a nineteen-year-old dreaming of escape from her mundane life and was sucked into being a webcam girl online which adds another layer of mystery to her disappearance. Was it a jealous boyfriend or a crazed customer online out for revenge?

There is a further part of the backstory involving missing girls in the area going back over 50 years. This does add another level of mystery as you wonder if this killer has  found Samantha. However I did work out quite quickly who the perpetrator of these were so it wasn’t really very effective as a sub-plot. However, it is effective in that the books events are connected to the disappearance but not in the direct way you would think.

I did enjoy this read and would recommend you give it a try as it is an entertaining and gripping thriller.

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