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Waking Hours by Lis Wiehl with Pete Nelson
Genre: Murder Mystery, Paranormal
Read Time: 11.5 hrs
Series: The East Salem Trilogy
Dani Harris, a forensic psychiatrist in Westchester County, New York, is tasked with assisting the DA’s office in uncovering the gruesome details behind the murder of a local high school girl. As fate would have it, former NFL linebacker and prom king Tommy Gunderson finds himself working alongside Dani to clear the name of a good friend. Ritualistic symbols, strange dreams, and teenage suspects: will they catch the murderer in time? Or is there something more sinister lurking in East Salem?
This is going to be a three-parter because I have some stuff to say about this book. Consider this the good, the bad, and the ugly. I’ll try to give a general and honest review in part one, but if you want to hear more on my thoughts, then keep reading.
I also like to preface my reviews with a content warning. This novel does include gore, violence, and the occult, but no sexual content or foul language.
Let me start off by saying Waking Hours is a murder mystery with a slight paranormal twist, and I’m fonder of paranormal than I am of murder mysteries. That being said, I still enjoyed the book. The story line was engaging and the characters were funny at times when I don’t think they were meant to be.
This story is told from both Dani and Tommy’s perspectives, alternating between each chapter. And I have to say, it was done really well. There’s no missing time or jarring transitions. In fact, I think it helped to build the suspense really well at times. Another favorite for me was the use of foreign words and phrases. The authors are really good about bringing up a phrase every so often, but not quite giving you the whole meaning until it’s pertinent. Try to resist the urge to use Google Translate, not knowing adds to the suspense.
On the down side, the dialog was a little unrealistic and corny. At times, a joke was so staged and so bad it became funny, and that’s not how you want to get your laughs. Another issue I had was how forced the romance seemed in the beginning. And yes, every murder mystery duo needs a romance! Don’t ask why, I have no idea. Like I said, I’m no mystery buff; my mother would be a better authority on the matter. However, the romance does pick up and there are other characters I really liked that I felt had more dimension.
Another thing I didn’t really enjoy was how descriptive the buildings were. All other scenery melded easily with the flow of the story, but every new building got its own paragraph. And worse still, each building description felt so cookie cutter that I started to imagine all of the buildings looking exactly the same. Big expensive brick mansions with gables and ivy. Some people might enjoy that sort of descriptive narrative, but I think it could have blended into the story better.
If you’re like me and enjoy a decent story to occupy your mind for a few hours, then by all means give this one a try. I’d recommend Waking Hours for fall/Halloween reading feels. It’s an easy read, the suspense builds nicely, it’s funny by accident, and the murder wraps up nicely if not leaving you wanting a little more. It’s more mystery than paranormal; they don’t touch much on the otherworldly until the very end. Which brings me to part 2…
THERE IS A SECOND BOOK! I honestly thought this was a self-contained, murder solved, you can go home now kind of mystery. Oh no, there is a book two, which I have yet to read. But let me tell you why this drives me bonkers. There is no build up for book two. The first book ends as you would expect any murder mystery, or any book for that matter, by wrapping up the existing plot line.
BUT! And this is a big but…
In the last chapter of the first book, after everything is all said and done, they imply that not everything has been wrapped up. And I’m just sitting here thinking what could possibly be left. Flash back to Dani’s dreams, a symbol that never really gets explained, and ONE ghostly encounter. All of this is the premise of the next book. So, I’m assuming where book one is a murder mystery, book two is going to unleash the unholy paranormal vortex that I had been waiting for the whole time.
I just really needed to vent that. But, expect to see a review of book number two just as soon as I get my hands on it!
If you’re also like me and a book snob, I wouldn’t waste your time with this one.
Aside from the dialog and pulling cliff hangers out of hats, Waking Hours will make you want to tear it a new one. The cast is diverse, but the characters are pretty flat caricatures verging on stereotypical. Most don’t see any kind of development. The book at least passes the Beckdel Test, but still has a poorly written romance. There were no major suspensions of disbelief, but I did find myself questioning the relevance of certain scenes. All in all, this is a book to pass the time, not a literary masterpiece. As a writer, I would recommend taking notes on what they did wrong and learning from their mistakes.
My Final Conclusion
So, with that, I would/would not recommend this book depending on your intent. I genuinely enjoyed the story and it kept me engaged. It just wasn’t as well written as it could have been. I’m hoping the second book is better, and I’ll review it when I get the chance.
Are you a murder mystery buff? Or a paranormal junkie? Let me know in the comments!