Book review - Are You Sleeping, Kathleen Barber
Crime fiction readers (and in particular, true crime or audio book enthusiasts) are generally mad podcast listeners also, so as a hook to make us pick up a novel by a new author, this absolutely worked!
Don’t be too fatigued about seeing once again that old trope of good twin/bad twin as it is put to good use in ARE YOU SLEEPING. Its likely readers will get the odd uncomfortable twinge about the twin stereotypes utilized also. One example of this is both twins having, at different times, the same romantic partner, the ability of the ‘good twin’ to forgive all ills for the sake of the blood tie etc. The reader will need to swallow those in order to move on and follow where it is all going. (Any twins out there, don’t groan too much!).
Readers will absolutely want to know the truth and also will absolutely feel empathy for Josie as she does her best to come through the mess without entirely destroying her new life with the (rather darling) Caleb. The toxicity of Josie’s twin Lanie makes her someone you wish the erstwhile Josie would run far, far away from and yet it is in this we are shown once again it is always that family ties which will continue to bind.
ARE YOU SLEEPING is a debut work for author Kathleen Barber. Insidiously adding weight to the past layer by layer, this is an enjoyable thriller with some clever dialogue that will satisfy those readers who not identify with the complexity of family dramas, but appreciate the recent wave of modern thrillers that include them.
Kudos to the book’s graphic designer for the 1970’s pulp fiction cover/s too – love it!
Josie Buhrman has a terrific partner to whom she has told rather a lot of lies to. Caleb, with all his Kiwi charm, has been a solid and loving anchor for Josie, separating her from the mess of her family past which included the scandalous murder of her father, and the exit of her mother to a cult like order. Josie has travelled a long way from the mid-western town where she grew up and has set up a good life for herself away from all of the skeletons still festering in her family closet. It has been blissful and soul affirming for Josie to be so far in recent years from her manipulative twin sister Lanie. It is only the death of their mother that draws Josie back to her home town once again to face her twin and the extended family that were called upon many years to care for Josie and Lanie.
The recent publication of a hit podcast blows Josie’s past back into her face with unexpected force and vitriol. The re-examining of the murder of Charles Buhrman brings Josie and her family to the fresh attention of a voracious new content hungry generation who are keen for the thrill and less interested in the damage that was done to the two young children in the house at the time of the murder. The creepy next-door neighbour, convicted all those years ago largely on the evidence of Lanie, is touted to have been wrongly convicted by Poppy Parnell, investigative journalist and podcaster extraordinaire. Josie’s heart slowly begins to break as she is forced to question all she thought she knew about the murder of her father.