SLEEPWALKER is Wendy Corsi Staub’s best novel to date. I’m going out on a limb here; Staub has written over 70 novels, and I am sure folks will be coming out of the woodwork to point out the error of my ways on this issue. Fair enough; all I ask is that you read SLEEPWALKER first and then get back to me. If it’s not her best, it’s certainly in the running for that title.
This second book of a trilogy that began with NIGHTWATCHER takes place in 2011, some 10 years after the cataclysmic events of the inaugural work. Much has changed in the life of Allison Taylor, who was almost a victim of the Nightwatcher serial killer and who was instrumental in the capture and incarceration of Jerry Thompson for the series of horrific crimes credited to the notorious murderer. Allison Taylor is now Allison Taylor MacKenna; she is married to Mack MacKenna, who lost his wife in the carnage of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York. They have built a new life together with two young daughters and an infant son in an upscale New York suburb.
"I have to tell you that the plotting of SLEEPWALKER is brilliant. You will want to read it twice --- once to enjoy and a second time just to pick up on the clues you might have missed or ignored the first time through."
The past is always with them, however, hovering like a shadow on the periphery of their lives. For Allison, the news that Thompson has committed suicide in his prison cell serves as a grim reminder of how close she came to being murdered; for Mack, the 9/11 anniversary recalls for him that his last words to his wife, before she left the house on that fateful September morning, was that he wanted a divorce. Consumed by guilt, he is plagued by sleepless nights and mood changes. A prescription medication seems to help, but also creates other problems.
Meanwhile, someone with a close connection to Jerry Thompson seems to be replicating the Nightwatcher killings and is moving closely into Allison’s circle. What is especially frightening is that it appears that the individual responsible for this may be Mack. All is revealed in a chilling climax that will have you swallowing your heart and battling the impulse to skip ahead to discover what occurs next.
I have to tell you that the plotting of SLEEPWALKER is brilliant. You will want to read it twice --- once to enjoy and a second time just to pick up on the clues you might have missed or ignored the first time through. Also, there is a revelation at the end that you will never see coming and that goes off like a hand grenade lobbed into a small room on a quiet summer afternoon. It will have you marking your calendar for January 29, 2013 when SHADOWKILLER, the last volume in the trilogy, is scheduled to be published.
And in the event that you need further convincing, the opening pages of SHADOWKILLER are included at the end of SLEEPWALKER, as is the introduction to NIGHTWATCHER, in case you missed the opening installment. All of this, and more, makes SLEEPWALKER a book that you do not want to miss.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on September 28, 2012