Don’t Wake Up: A Novel by Liz Lawler

Reviewed by Dianne Woodman

Imagine waking up stripped of your clothes, strapped to an operating table, and threatened with unimaginable physical cruelty. This is what happens to Dr. Alex Taylor, who works at a hospital in Bath, England. After Alex’s terrifying experience, she is convinced that she was violated, however, no physical proof exists that supports her story. Alex’s life takes a downward spiral, as she tries to convince everyone the attack was real and not a delusion. She starts drinking too much. When a pregnant nurse dies, Alex is convinced the same person who tortured her is responsible. No one believes Alex’s allegation. It appears as if Alex needs psychological help, and deadly incidents involving her only make things worse. Relationships with her colleagues and boyfriend suffer, and Alex worries she is losing her grip on reality.

In Don’t Wake Up, Liz Lawler expertly utilizes multiple third person point of view. Lawler only switches character perspectives between chapters or scenes, and it is clear whose eyes readers are looking through. The majority of this engrossing story is told from Alex’s perspective, but readers are also shown the viewpoints of key characters and their reactions to Alex’s claim of an attack. The different viewpoints pull readers deeper into the heart of the story in which Lawler skillfully interweaves not only things such as criminal acts, police investigations, prejudice, disloyalty, jealousy, violence, and dedication but also the effects of psychological trauma, overindulgence in alcohol, and reliance on anxiety medication.

Lawler has written a gripping and suspenseful psychological medical thriller that includes graphic depictions of medical procedures and life-threatening injuries. The drama, anguish, suspense, tension, and unexpected twists and turns add layers of depth to this well-told story. A strong opening hook pulls readers into this whodunit and gets them invested in Alex’s traumatic experience and keeps them guessing as to whether or not it was real or imagined. Is she losing her mind, making up stories for her own benefit, or the pawn in a deadly game? The inner and outer conflicts ramp up the tension in the story until it escalates into a climax filled with terrifying suspense.

This book will appeal to readers who enjoy mystery/mind twisting/psychological thrillers centered around medical professionals and the fallout in a person’s life when their sanity is threatened not only by frightening incidents but also by the painful feelings brought on by the upsetting behavior of people you interact with socially and in the workplace.