"Waking Nightmare," Kylie Brant

Pros: Wonderful psych material; great characters; interesting mystery
Cons: Identity of killer insufficiently foreshadowed
Rating: 4 out of 5

Review book courtesy of Penguin Group.

 

There’s a serial rapist loose in Savannah, and detective Ryne Robel is determined to catch him—but he’s going to need help to do it. Enter criminologist Abbie Philips, a member of a famous group of forensic experts nicknamed the “mindhunters” by the media. She’s a brilliant profiler, but of course Robel doesn’t put much stock in profiles, and he finds Abbie herself distracting. Add to that some personal problems that both of the investigators face, as well as a wily and seemingly unstoppable criminal determined to bring women’s worst fears to life, and things will get a lot messier before they get better.

 

While the conflict of the criminologist creating a profile and the detective who doesn’t believe in “psychobabble” has been done before, it’s handled well here. Ryne isn’t over-the-top or oblivious in his doubt—he just needs to be convinced. And Abbie has dealt with doubtful cops before, so she handles it pretty well. The characters have quite a bit of depth and are interesting and enjoyable; the chemistry between Abbie and Ryne feels real, and their mutual desire to ignore that attraction feels believable rather than serving as an artificial means of keeping them apart.

My favorite part of Kylie Brant’s Waking Nightmare, however, is Abbie’s sister, Callie, who’s bipolar (among other things). This is one of the best (i.e., most accurate) depictions I’ve seen of someone who’s bipolar—from a single paragraph of dialogue I immediately found myself saying, “she’s hypomanic!” Followed, of course, by amazement that there was so much accuracy to the flow of the dialogue that I could tell that so easily. (I’m bipolar, so I tend to get pretty tired of seeing crappy portrayals of mental illness in the media!)

While there’s plenty of tension and great pacing to the suspense and mystery portion of things, one thing disappointed me. To me, the best part of a suspense/mystery novel is trying to figure out whodunit. This requires a tricky balance of foreshadowing/hints, and red herrings/obfuscation, such that the reader waffles on the identity of the perpetrator until the very end, but feels satisfaction and a feeling of, “of COURSE it was him/her!” at the end. To be fair, this is extremely hard to achieve, and to a certain extent this line will rest at a different place with each reader, so take my complaint with a grain of salt. But I rarely find myself going, “huh? what?” when I find out who the perp is, and yet that’s what happened here. I guess I can look back and see a few things that the author probably intended as clues, but I definitely don’t think it was enough. It took some of the impact of the ending away.

Despite that, however, I enjoyed Waking Nightmare enough to immediately pick up its sequel, Waking Evil, so it definitely isn’t a deal-breaker problem. Besides—it’s more than made up for by how Callie and her illness are handled throughout the book!

 

[Standard adult material warning: explicit sex between the romantic leads and dark subject matter.]

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