One day, a wife and mother of two disappeared overnight. Annalee Ahlberg went to bed as usual, but wasn’t there in the morning. This had happened before, but only when her husband was gone, so he quit traveling. After years without an incident, he deemed it safe to try again. See, his wife suffers from somnambulism, or sleepwalking. But she has a severe form of it, a form that sometimes entails much more than just wandering around asleep in her pajamas. This time, though, it looks as if the nocturnal journey may have turned fatal. Her family is frantic with worry. However, there is still hope that she may not have met a bad end.
Even with this hope, the Ahlberg daughters are shouldering a heavy guilt that they didn’t do more to ensure their mother’s safety. With Dad away on a business trip, they feel it was their responsibility to keep Mom from sleepwalking. To help ease her guilt, 12-year-old Paige tries to search the nearby river where her sister Lianna once found their mother perched on a bridge, teetering naked above the water. For her part, Lianna has tabled college studies in order to pump one of the detectives on the case for information and follow up leads on her own. Their father seems unable to rally himself enough to get involved at all in the search for Annalee. Despite his apparent ennui, they don’t believe he’s a suspect. Not really. But he sure does drink a lot these days.
"Bohjalian has pacing down to a brilliant science... [He] has pulled off a remarkable feat with THE SLEEPWALKER, which no reader of intelligent mysteries will want to miss."
In reality, what’s left of the Ahlberg family is in shambles. Trying to take her mother’s place in the household doesn’t help Lianna in the other aspects of her life. However, she does find herself drawn to Gavin Rikert, the detective she’s been dogging for weeks. He has secrets of his own, though. At the least, he’ll admit to knowing Annalee previously. But what isn’t he admitting to? Lianna pushes her doubts aside, to a degree, because she has fallen for Gavin in a big way. Still, she needs to focus if she expects to find the answers that will help get her life back together.
As Lianna takes a closer look at her mother’s last few years, she discovers some highly disturbing facts about sleepwalking and the possible genetic implications it holds for herself and her younger sister. And, outside of her immediate family, there’s a connection, too --- one that involves Gavin. With everything she has learned, Lianna begins to wonder if she can trust him. She knows he hasn’t been fully open with her. His excuse is that her mother’s case remains open. True, but is that a reason she can accept? While weighing the pros and cons, she unearths evidence that shakes her to her very core. And breaks her heart.
Bestselling author Chris Bohjalian has pacing down to a brilliant science, which is never more evident than in his latest chilling novel. Once again, he feeds his readers the story just slowly enough to keep us hungry for more. This engaging tale examines how, when tragedy strikes, it wrenches apart the glue that holds a family together. It probes the strength of trust and tests the bonds of love. Bohjalian has pulled off a remarkable feat with THE SLEEPWALKER, which no reader of intelligent mysteries will want to miss.
Reviewed by Kate Ayers on January 11, 2017