Friday, 23 June 2017

Book Review: WHEN I WAKE UP by Jessica Jarlvi

Author: Jessica Jarlvi
June 2017
My Rating:🌟🌟🌟

Book Description (Goodreads):

When Anna, a much-loved teacher and mother of two, is left savagely beaten and in a coma, a police investigation is launched. News of the attack sends shock waves through her family and their small Swedish community. Anna seems to have had no enemies, so who wanted her dead?

As loved-ones wait anxiously by her bedside, her husband Erik is determined to get to the bottom of the attack, and soon begins uncovering his wife's secret life, and a small town riven with desire, betrayal and jealousy.

As the list of suspects grows longer, it soon becomes clear that only one person can reveal the truth, and she's lying silent in a hospital bed... 

My musings:

Who would assault and almost kill a young mother and popular teacher, so much respected in the community that she has recently won the “teacher of the year” award? According to Anna’s friends and family, she had no enemies, no one who would wish her harm. Fighting for her life in ICU, Anna herself is unable to shed any light on the situation. Anna’s little twin boys are devastated that their mummy is not coming home, and her overwhelmed husband Erik is becoming convinced that the police have hit a dead end investigating the assault.

The more we delve into the storyline, brimming with dysfunctional and sometimes outright obnoxious characters, the more we become aware that not all is as it appears on the surface. Each and every character in this book has a nasty secret or two, and, ultimately, a reason to kill. Jarvli does a good job setting a dark and disturbing scene with an underlying sense of menace throughout, and reveals snippets of each character’s life through alternating POVs.

I love a good Scandinavian thriller and their honest exploration of the darkest corners of the human psyche, and although I did not get the same sense of locale and atmosphere as a lot of others in the genre, Jarlvi is certainly not afraid to shy away from controversial topics in this novel. Unlike many other murder/mysteries, the police investigation features only very peripherally in this book, and the main focus always rests on the various characters involved in Anna’s life, who each could turn out to be her attacker. Perhaps the main “investigator”, if you could call him that, is Anna’s husband Erik, who has a lot of questions regarding his wife’s attack, and starts looking into her personal affairs a bit more closely – and there is nothing better in a mystery than a spouse who discovers that their loved one may have had secrets they know nothing about.

I was not so fond of some of the explicit sexual scenes in the book, but that is just my personal opinion and other people may enjoy the way they spice up the story and add further complications to the already rather complex relationships featured. Since I am not a fan of romance novels, I could easily have done away with quite a lot of the sexual tension, which would have moved the story along a bit better. As it was, the middle of the book dragged a bit for me, only to gain momentum again towards the end, as we begin to narrow down the suspects.   And whilst I did not find the resolution of the mystery totally satisfying (for reasons I will not divulge here), it certainly had a surprise element.


When I Wake Up is a well-written mystery from a new voice in Scandinavian crime fiction. Focusing on a young woman’s brutal assault, it explores the relationships surrounding the victim from several POVs and takes the reader on a dark and sinister journey into the deepest, darkest corners of the human psyche. Lovers of Scandinavian noir and domestic noir, who are not put off by some sexual tension and explicit sexual scenes, may find this novel exactly what they have been looking for. 

Thank you to Netgalley and Aria for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.

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