While She Was Sleeping
While She Was Sleeping is Suzanne Forster’s first full-length work in two years. I doubt anyone who was eagerly anticipating it will find it worth the wait. It’s neither good nor bad. It’s simply very, very average.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: A lunatic is attacking and sexually assaulting women. The police are getting nowhere, so a controversial female consultant is brought in. The cops are resistant, including the detective in charge of the case, who happens to be the woman’s former lover. The killer becomes fixated on her, and she slowly begins to fear he’s someone she knows. It’s the stuff of seemingly every other romantic suspense on the market, an all too common setup with an all too common follow through.
Need more details? Alrighty. The lunatic in this case kidnaps and drugs his victims, then abandons them in public places dressed only in a hospital gown with all the hair removed from their bodies. His first three victims were left alive, but the fourth, who happened to be the detective in charge of the investigation, was killed. Her former partner, Detective Russ Sadler, is now in charge. He’s determined to crack this very personal case, though having little luck finding a suspect. His superior decides to call in forensic sketch artist Jennifer Nash, Sadler’s former fiancé, who left him at the altar. He doesn’t want her there. The cops are all mean to her and give her a hard time. No one believes she’ll be a help to the investigation. The killer keeps stalking potential victims, revealing to the reader how twisted he is.
There’s nothing really wrong with While She Was Sleeping. It’s capably written and quite readable. But it lacks the extra spark of Forster’s better work, and even some of her worst. It’s merely typical, with nothing to enliven such a common storyline. The first half moves very slowly. Around the midpoint I stopped reading and tried to figure out exactly what they’d managed to accomplish so far. The answer was: Not much. While most of what they spend the early portions of the book doing pays off in the end, the reader is left to wade through all this setup while little of interest transpires.
It may have been worthwhile if I’d had any investment in the characters. But they’re simply bland, just as typical as the story they’re stuck in. Jennifer has reasons related to her childhood for leaving Russ that she’s never told him. Russ also had a bad childhood. He doesn’t want Jennifer involved in the case, but when the other cops make fun of her, he can’t resist the impulse to step in and defend her honor. Even when Jennifer did something a little TSTL that forced Russ to come to her rescue, it was hard to care about such a flat character.
The story briefly flares to life when Russ and Jennifer finally talk through their past and grow closer again (the best part of the book), only to have Forster then separate the characters for a long stretch again. From then on, it’s pretty much good-bye to the romance and back to the read-it-before thriller plot, already in progress. A predictable twist – although, actually, most of the twists are obvious – follows that puts Jennifer in full Nancy Drew mode. I had no trouble figuring out how the pieces were going to fit together, though the ending does deliver some tension.
There’s not much to say about While She Was Sleeping because there’s simply not much here. If anything, anyone who didn’t like the poorly received Angel Face will be happy to know this one’s better than that. Forster has written some good books and some terrible ones. This one falls squarely in between.