Insomnia by Sarah Pinborough – Book review

Insomnia by thriller-writer-with-a-supernatural-twist Sarah Pinborough absolutely does what it says on the tin – if you start reading this in the evening you won’t be going to sleep anytime soon. Definitely sitting in psychological thriller territory, Insomnia perfectly builds up tension, shows the power of gaslighting and delivers a reality shift for lead character, Emma.

Opening sentence: The other car comes out of nowhere.

I can’t get no sleep

On the face of it, Emma has a great life: a successful career as a lawyer, a husband, Robert and two children, Chloe and Will. However her inability to sleep is really messing with her mind.

Emma and her older sister Phoebe grew up in foster care after a traumatic incident saw their mother committed to a psychiatric facility on her 40th birthday. Now, in the fortnight before her own 40th birthday, Emma finds she is struggling to sleep and is starting to fear that the ‘bad blood’ that caused her mother to lose her grip on reality is going to affect her too.

Emma’s insomnia causes blackouts, makes her doubt her actions, makes her question everything and when the police become involved, make her wonder what she is really capable of. Running through the background is her desire to protect her children from what she believes is a credible threat to them – but is there someone after her family or is it her mother’s ‘bad blood’ running through her veins?

Why is the past always so much more alive at night? Ghosts, spirits, ghouls. Memories.

Suspend your disbelief

I haven’t read any other books by this author but I did watch the adaptation of Behind her Eyes (a previous Sarah Pinborough novel) on Netflix. I felt a little blind-sided with the story pacing of that as a TV series – perhaps in the book it was more seamless but the show felt a little gimmicky. So, while I was on the lookout for supernatural elements in Insomnia, I was very pleased that they felt far more natural within the story.

As with any story that brings in elements like that, a suspension of disbelief is a must to truly give yourself over to the spirit of the book, which I did here due to the brilliant pacing. It was both repetitive and fast flowing, we were brought so well into Emma’s paranoid state, often feeling as stressed as her while she desperately tried to figure out what was happening.

I very much enjoyed Insomnia, it kept me guessing and I whizzed through it – I always like a psychological thriller that throws an off-beat twist into the mix.

If you like the sound of this, you might also enjoy Daisy Darker by Alice Feeney or Himself by Jess Kidd.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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