Hammel College senior Tara Beckley had one job to do—get visiting Professor Amandi Oltamu to the university on time so that he could deliver the keynote address about the sensitive, high-profile work he was finally ready to discuss publicly.
Instead, things went terribly wrong.
After briefly getting stuck on a bridge after Oltamu asks to see parts of the campus, Tata’s car is struck by a fast-moving van—the force of the bone-crushing crash strong enough to kill the professor instantly, and leave her in a coma.
Technically, Tara becomes a victim of what’s known as “locked-in syndrome,” wherein the patient becomes fully cognizant of what’s happening around them, but remains completely trapped inside their own mind and body, unable to move or speak. For Tara, the already horrifying situation is made worse when she begins to piece together that someone is after her, but has no way to relay that information—and no clue why she might be a target.
Meanwhile, the university hires Abby Kaplan, a former stunt car driver, to investigate the accident. With plenty of experience under her belt, including a crash that’s left a loved one badly injured, Abby knows how vehicles moving at fast speeds tend to handle, and she’s confident there’s something fishy about the story told to the police by Carlos Ramirez, the man who was driving the van that ran over Professor Amandi Oltamu before slamming into Tara’s car. Her theory proves correct when Ramirez winds up dead himself, but not from the crash. Instead, someone put a bullet into him—and after she makes the mistake of poking around a bit too much, the same killer comes after her too.
On the run and in the crosshairs, Abby must try to figure out who’s behind the mayhem, while, at the same time, Tara searches desperately for a way to communicate with the medical staff around her. Both know their lives are on the line, but neither knows why . . . and with the bad guys closing in around then, the clock is ticking.
A veteran writer, Michael Koryta knows just how to ramp up the suspense, and he sure manages to do that once again here. While the first few chapters are a bit slower, setting the table for what’s to come, things take off quickly, and the story picks up steam as the plot unfolds. While most readers are perfectly willing to suspend their disbelief, one’s ability to enjoy the story at hand will likely come down to Tara and her predicament—a literal worst-case scenario for many—and Koryta does a fabulous job capturing the horror that must course through one’s veins when they find themselves fully conscious, and yet totally trapped inside their own brain.
The mystery Koryta builds around that plot point is the icing on the cake, with the story quickly going down a road most readers will never expect it to travel. No, not everything feels believable all the time, but Koryta keeps it close enough that it shouldn’t matter to most. Besides, there’s a lot going on, so there’s plenty for readers to lock onto and several solid twists to keep them distracted and guessing right up until the end. Those paying close attention might even pick up on a thread that ties this book to one of his others.
Timely, thought-provoking, and, most of all, thoroughly entertaining—Michael Koryta’s If She Wakes is a scary-good thriller that delivers one heck of a reading experience.
Author: Michael Koryta
Pages: 400 (Hardcover)
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Release Date: May 14, 2019
Book Spy Rating: 7.5/10
Praised as “one of today’s finest book reviewers” by New York Times bestselling author Gayle Lynds, Ryan Steck (“The Godfather of the thriller genre” — Ben Coes) has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). Steck also works full-time as a freelance editor and pens a monthly thriller column for CrimeReads. For more information, be sure to follow him on Twitter and Facebook. He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.