Author of the Month

Name: C.L. Taylor

First Novel: The Accident

Most Recent Book: Sleep

' will do no wrong than to pick up this book… but I warn you, putting this book down again will be a Herculean task!'

All Anna wants is to be able to sleep. But crushing insomnia, terrifying night terrors and memories of that terrible night are making it impossible. If only she didn’t feel so guilty…

To escape her past, Anna takes a job at a hotel on the remote Scottish island of Rum, but when seven guests join her, what started as a retreat from the world turns into a deadly nightmare.

Each of the guests have a secret, but one of them is lying – about who they are and why they're on the island. There's a murderer staying in the Bay View hotel. And they've set their sights on Anna.

Seven strangers. Seven secrets. One deadly lie.

Someone’s going to sleep and never wake up…

This is a difficult one to review as there is so much I could give away without meaning to… with that in mind I will start by saying this is a cracking and addictive story and one I read in a single afternoon! The pace is breakneck and ‘Sleep’ did anything but to me, instead it was like being injected with a shot of adrenaline.

Stranded on a remote part of Rum, Taylor’s book resonated with that famous Christie with a small cast of characters who had a killer in their midst and no way of escaping. There is a claustrophobic feel to ‘Sleep’ as the storm batters the hotel and small island while paranoia builds and builds.

Taylor’s characters are all well-defined and each has their own back story and none are simple plot devices. There is much about the need to sleep and the lack of it as paranoia, anxiety, grief and self-loathing all play a part in depriving some of the sleep they most desire… although I am sure sleeping with a killer under the same roof is hard to achieve, even for those of us who sleep at the drop of a hat!

Taylor has a great knack of being cinematic with her writing and her book played out like a movie in my head. ‘Sleep’ is aching to be adapted for the small screen. If you want a thumping good read that will do everything except send you to sleep, then you will do no wrong than to pick up this book… but I warn you, putting this book down again will be a Herculean task!

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating


1) 'Sleep’ naturally revolves around sleep and its different definitions, as well as the severe lack of sleep and how it can affect us mentally. What started you on this important part of our lives we take for granted and work it within a crime novel?
Sleep is something I’ve always been fascinated by, particularly abnormal sleep disorders. As a child I frequently sleepwalked but grew out of it as an adult; apart from one occasion when I was on anti-malarial tablets on holiday in Nepal and woke up clawing at the mosquito net. I’ve also suffered from insomnia on and off for years but I didn’t discover the sleep anomaly that is night terrors until a friend at work told me that he’d frequently wake in the night to find a goblin sitting on his chest or pulling at his foot. He couldn’t move a muscle, he told me, and would be completely helpless at the goblin pulled him onto the floor (where he’d later wake up).

The idea for ‘Sleep’ came when I had an image of a woman walking through the corridors of a hotel late at night. I knew she was an insomniac because she felt guilty about something but took a lot more thought before I realised why.
2) Most of the book is based on Rum, an island within the Inner Hebrides. Why did you choose this particular island and did you feel the landscape needed to play a part of your story?
I love putting my characters in a crucible they can’t escape from. I did it with ‘The Lie’, my second book, where I trapped four women in a cult in the Anna Purna range of Nepal, and wanted to write about somewhere that was almost as remote. I knew the action in ‘Sleep’ had to take place on a Scottish isle but I discounted all the big islands immediately. My island needed to have a small population, no police force or medical aid, unreliable 4G and broadband and potentially be cut off from the mainland in a storm. I already knew about Rum because a friend of mine, Trudi Clarke, is the ranger there. I watched a lot of YouTube clips, a BBC documentary and had countless conversations with Trudi and realised that Rum would be perfect. It’s wild, exposed and mountainous with more animals than people, rocky cliff faces and unpredictable weather. It also had a river running through it that, if flooded, cuts one part of the island off from the rest. I decided to put my hotel on one side of the river - the otherwise uninhabited part.
3) When the party at the Bay View Hotel are cut off by the storm and the rest of the island, it becomes quite ‘Christie-esque’. Was this a deliberate homage?
I didn’t deliberately set out to write an homage to Agatha Christie, no. As I said earlier I love putting my characters in a crucible, throwing in a figurative bomb and watching what happens. There are only so many ways you can do that in fiction – an island, a hotel cut off by a storm, a cruise ship, a train – so it’s inevitable you’ll end up using a device that another author has used before. Having said that I did watch the BBC adaptation of ‘And Then There Were None’ a few years ago and something about it must have appealed, or sparked an idea, and settled in my brain. I think that happened to a few other authors too as my book isn’t the only book out this year that shares some similarities with ‘And Then There Were None.’
4) I really liked Anna’s character and there were a lot of different personalities in the Bay View Hotel party which definitely added to the plot. Do you think that despite writing a psychological thriller, an individuals’ character is still important without losing pace to the story?
I think the crafting of unique and well-rounded characters is integral to a psychological thriller, or at least a good one, but characterisation does have to be balanced against pace and plot. The secret, if there is one, is for the personalities of the individual characters to be introduced via dialogue and action rather than internal monologues, reflection or flashbacks, all of which can slow pace.
5) What next for C.L. Taylor?
I’m currently writing my seventh psychological thriller which will be published by Avon HarperCollins in March or April 2020. I’m 48,000 words into the first draft and still have a lot to write by my deadline of 16th June. This year I’m also writing my second young adult thriller which will be published by HarperCollins HQ in June 2020. It’s turning out to be a very busy year!
6) You have now written seven psychological novels. What advice would you give to anyone attempting their first novel?
I’d tell anyone attempting their first novel that self-doubt is a natural part of the process - that you’ll read back what you’ve written and feel disappointed that it doesn’t match the vision in your head, that after your initial burst of enthusiasm you’ll get to a stage where you want to ditch the whole thing and write something else or you’ll get 40,000 words in and worry that you haven’t got enough plot to write the second half. And the chances are that, if you do finish that novel, you’ll read it back and think its shit. All of these things are absolutely normal. There isn’t a single published author I know that isn’t riddled with self-doubt, boredom and frustration at some point in the process of writing a novel. When you pick up a book by your favourite author don’t feel intimidated that you’ll never write anything as good, be comforted by the fact that, at some point, they probably hated the thing!
7) Are you a fan of crime fiction? Which three crime novels would you like with you if stranded on a desert island?
I’m a huge fan of crime fiction. I don’t think you can write it and not be. This is a tricky question because part of me wants to answer it with my three favourite crime novels but another part thinks, ‘If I were on a desert island I’d want to read something I haven’t read before.’ So let’s go with a mix of the two. I’d take The Collector by John Fowles which is the book that made me realise that a crime novel doesn’t have to include a detective or a private eye (and it’s bloody brilliant in the way it explores the relationship between captor and prisoner), Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier which is a psychological suspense masterclass and Force of Nature by Jane Harper because I absolutely loved The Dry and The Lost Man and it’s the only book of hers I haven’t read.

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