It was the description that made me download this book because I don't really like the cover (naked girl, sitting in hallway of old house). It's described as a psychological thriller but I found it to be more of a gothic mystery/folk horror, which is more to my taste anyway.
Zoe is an American who is having problems in her marriage and decides to take a solo holiday on a remote Scottish island. She's chosen to rent a recently refurbished, large Victorian house which, it transpires, was built on the ruins (and using some of the stones from) an old chapel. The owner implies she shouldn't listen to gossip and rumour about the history of the house, so of course that's exactly what she does! Her main source of information is Charles, a historian and bookshop owner, and Edward, the local school teacher, who has already had one pupil disappear at the house in mysterious circumstances.
While You Sleep is very well-written, atmospheric and downright creepy, and the characters fairly leapt off the page. I loved the setting and the chilling history of the house, and the eccentric characters living on the island. I particularly liked Charles and his jokey demand for the payment of a cinnamon bun before he'd tell Zoe the legends about the old house.
The negative for me (and I can't believe I'm writing this, because it doesn't usually bother me) were the (two and a half) sex scenes. I think it's because I was quite happily reading what I thought to be a super-scary gothic mystery and suddenly it all went a bit Fifty Shades of Grey. The other negative was the budding romance between Zoe and Edward. Exact ages are not mentioned, but Zoe is apparently in her forties and Edward is in his twenties. This would have been fine, except every time Edward appears mention is made of how young he is, either outright or implicitly, so I started to think of the age gap as being much larger than it probably was.
But overall I did enjoy While You Sleep. I found it a super-spooky and completely gripping read that reminded me of those old Hammer House of Horror films and Dennis Wheatley novels. I have no hesitation in giving it four stars, but if you're the kind of person who doesn't mind a bit of dark erotica with your folk horror, then you might consider it a five-star read.
I was lucky enough to read an advance copy of this book, which will be published in the UK on the 8th March 2018.
Thank you to Stephanie Merritt, Harper Collins UK, and Netgalley for my copy of this book, which I received in exchange for an honest review.