What a gripping story of tragedy, remorse, guilt and revenge. It’s all here in C.L. Taylor’s psychological page-turner and it’ll keep you guessing right up to the end. It certainly did me; with seven guests staying at a remote island hotel, seven secrets between them and one of them intent on killing, this book is a cat’s cradle of false leads and dead-ends.
And running through the story like a jagged blade is sleep – or rather, the paralysing, frustrating, mind-bending lack of it. Anna is an insomniac, not by nature, but because of an appalling event which she cannot release herself of responsibility for. Hence her sleeplessness.
It all starts harmlessly enough. Anna is a successful marketing manager earmarked for company promotion. She’s taken her core team out of their London office for a ‘bonding’ winter weekend in the Brecon Beacons. It’s been a reasonable success – although character flaws and rivalries have bubbled to the surface during the so-called ‘team-building’ exercises – and now she is driving everyone home in her car. By the time they reach the M25, most of them are asleep – the heater is on full-blast and it’s hot – and then catastrophe strikes, instantly and without warning.
‘It happens in the blink of an eye. One moment there is a car in front of me, red tail-lights a warm, comforting glow, the next the car is gone, there’s a blur of lights and the blare of a horn – frantic and desperate – and then I’m thrown to the left as the car tips to the side and all I can hear is crunching metal, breaking glass, screaming, and then nothing at all.’
For some, it is the last day of their lives. For Anna, it is the start of a life sentence.
The thing is, the fatal accident wasn’t really Anna’s fault. A lorry driver just ahead of her fell asleep at the wheel and drifted across the carriageway directly into her path. Result; carnage.
But Anna cannot escape her feelings of guilt; all those ‘if onlys’. She recovers physically from her injuries, but not mentally. The deaths of her colleagues haunt her dreams. And soon she stops having dreams altogether, because she cannot sleep. Paralysed by insomnia at night and guilt by day, she quickly reaches the end of her tether. In despair, she decides to quit her job and career and escape as far from London as she can.
She takes a job at a hotel on the remote island of Rum, one of the so-called Small Isles in the Inner Hebrides. With a population barely into double figures, it could hardly be more different from her life in London, or, short of emigrating, further from the capital; Rum lies 600 miles to the north.
Yet when seven hotel guests arrive, Anna begins to realise that there is no escaping her past. Because all the visitors are keeping secrets – and one is actively lying about who they are and why they have really come to Rum. There is a murderer staying at the Bay View Hotel – and Anna may be their next victim. If you read this scintillating novel in bed, don’t be surprised if, like Anna, you have trouble getting off to sleep…