While You Slept by R.J. Parker #BookReview

What would you do if you woke up in your home… but it wasn't your home at all?

When a man wearing a picture mask of her daughter Maisie's face stands tauntingly in her garden, Lily Russell does the smart thing and calls the police. When she and Maisie wake up the following morning in an exact replica of their home, held captive by that same man, the police are no longer an option.

Surrounded by the rooms and things that once provided comfort and now only promote fear, Lily and Maisie must fight to survive. Because when no one knows where you are, you are your only hope.

It's such a pleasure to be sharing my review of While You Slept today. Many thanks to Richard Parker and One More Chapter for my advance copy, received through Netgalley.

I'm a big fan of Richard Parker's books and I love that while all his novels have unique plots, he is always able to manipulate our common fears to produce stories which are seriously chilling. An intruder in the house must be one of the most universal things to keep us lying awake at night but that has been twisted here in a unique premise which might require some suspension of belief but the result is a tense, nerve-wracking thriller. 
The opening to the book is quietly terrifying; not much actually happens when Lily Russell's sophisticated security system informs her that there is an intruder in her garden. He doesn't do anything other than to look directly at the camera before leaving over the wall but I shared her horror when it is revealed that he is wearing a mask of her five-year-old daughter Maisie's face. The police accept that this is more than an opportune intrusion but are inclined to believe that her estranged husband is the most likely culprit. Lily is far from convinced this is the case but it's not long before the situation becomes considerably more sinister.
Our homes are supposed to be our place of refuge but Lily and Maisie wake up to discover they're in a nightmare. At first glance nothing has changed but then Lily receives a phone call from the man who was in her garden - and now the camera reveals he's in the house too. Except - and this is where While You Slept takes a different turn from the usual home invasion stories - this isn't their home. Somehow they are in a house which is an almost exact copy of their home, although on closer inspection there are little reminders that it is a reproduction and not the real thing. 
Far more ominously, however, this version seems to offer no way for Lily and Maisie to leave. As they realise they are trapped, they try to discover the secrets of a house they feel they should know intimately but which has now become their prison. They don't know whether it is safe for them to eat the food provided for them but even more distressingly, their unknown captor is watching their every move and he doesn't hesitate to exact punishments when he is disappointed in their behaviour. 
Who this person is, and why Lily and Maisie are in this position isn't revealed until late in the novel and we're not even given much of a chance to get to know them before they are taken. It means that even as we share Lily's frantic theories as to who is responsible for her predicament there are doubts cleverly cast as to her own choices, especially when she considers the events which led to her marriage breaking down, and I developed a few suspicions of my own about what was happening.
As it turns out, I was completely wrong and was totally blindsided by the eventual revelation. Although I suspect some people may feel it comes out of the blue a little too much, I really enjoyed discovering the shocking truth. While You Slept is probably not going to be to everybody's tastes; if you prefer your thrillers to be totally plausible then you may struggle with the premise of the book but if you are prepared to accept the situation as conceivable, this is an intriguing and very creepy story. 
Although there are some scenes with other characters, including the mysterious perpetrator, a lot of the novel is effectively a two-header and I loved the relationship between Lily and Maisie. It has to be said that Maisie does seem to be a particularly intelligent five year old but I thought that made Lily's dilemmas about how much to share with her daughter all the more poignant. She is clearly a bright, perceptive child who won't be fobbed off with platitudes and excuses but she is still only very young and there's a moment regarding cereal box toys which serves to underline that. It's just the two of them working together against their unknown and potentially very dangerous kidnapper and I found the dynamics of their relationship to be touching and engaging.
Their plight may be extraordinary but their desperate, horrified responses are entirely relatable and it's this which makes While You Slept such a cracking thriller. Throughout the book I wondered what I would do under the same circumstances and so I was able to experience the sheer weight of their terror. Richard Parker is an author who never fails to deliver and I highly recommend While You Slept to anybody who enjoys original and engrossing psychological suspense novels.

While You Slept is published by One More Chapter, purchasing links can be found here but please consider supporting independent bookstores whenever possible.

About the Author

Richard Parker also writes as R J Parker for HarperCollins and was formerly a TV script writer, script editor and producer before turning his hand to penning twisted stand alone thrillers.