Stay Awake
August 9, 2022

Book Review

Stay Awake

reviewed by Lou Jacobs


There’s a famous quote from “Catch 22” by Joseph Heller: “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.” How appropriate for Liv Reese who awakens in the back of a cab confused and concerned for her safety.

She has absolutely no recollection of how she got in the cab or where she’s going. The cab pulls up to a brownstone and the cabby announces, “We’re here.” Standing on the porch, she realizes she has no keys or purse, but recognizes the building as her and Amy’s apartment. She pushes the intercom buzzer and encounters a strange couple occupying “her apartment.” The woman is none too happy, and quickly becomes peeved at Liv’s insistence that she lives there, and threatens to call the police.

Once back on the street in tears and her head throbbing in confusion, she notices black ball-point markings on her hands: STAY AWAKE… DON’T SLEEP … TRUST NO ONE … DON’T TALK TO THE POLICE, EVER.

After a quick search, she realizes she has a large wad of cash in her jeans, and a lump in her cardigan pocket. Reaching into her pocket she retrieves a T-shirt, after opening it, discovers a blood-stained knife. Bewildered, she quickly rolls it back up and dumps it in a nearby trash can. Still confused, she looks down and notices on her wrist the written name and address of a place: Nocturna.

Her next cab ride deposits her at a bar. She walks in and is greeted by a smiling bartender by her name. Apparently, she was actually there several hours ago and learns that she has “a memory problem,” hence the messages on her hands. When she falls asleep, she forgets “everything” that has happened to her. The bar TV blasts breaking news of a murdered man and the message: WAKE UP was written backwards in his blood on a window. It is quickly evident that she has a gap of two lost years. There has been a traumatic event that has created insomnia and paranoia and eventually a memory wipe. She has to find her best friend Amy and her boyfriend, Marco. Is she dangerous or in danger? Why are two years gone from her memory?

Cut to the murder scene, where detective Darcy Halliday is first on the scene, having answered a page while jogging to the precinct on her morning run still in her running gear.

She had been transferred to Homicide on a six-month temporary transfer status, and is eager to lead her first investigation. She served in the military for six years with distinction during multiple tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. She paid her dues after joining the NYPD with two years on patrol, followed by stints in other departments. (An intriguing character that merits further appearances.) Next to the location, is Detective Jack La Velle, a seasoned, grizzled veteran, with the department’s highest solve rate, who detests having a partner. The victim reposes in a peaceful pose on the bed, with a single stab wound just below the rib cage. No blood splatter, no wallet, no cell phone, no identification, and no signs of a struggle. Written on the window, backwards: “WAKE UP.”

The chapters alternate between Liv’s point of view, in the present and two years ago, as she desperately attempts to unravel her predicament. Also in the present, Detective Halliday and her partner investigate the murder and attempt to track down Liv, with Darcy stubbornly holding out for the possibility of Liv’s innocence, even though she’s the prime suspect.

Megan Golden crafts a compelling and chilling thriller that catapults the reader with breakneck speed along a twisted path with multiple unexpected reveals to a shocking denouement. Someone wants to make sure Liv doesn’t remember, but why?

I had the pleasure of alternating between the ARC and the audio version. The two narrators, Church and LaVoy brought to life the multiple characters in the theatre of my mind and enhanced the intrigue, ongoing confusion and escalating tension and suspense in this twisty and riveting thriller.

Thanks to NetGalley, St. Martin’s Press and Macmillan Audio for providing an Uncorrected Proof and Advance Audio version in exchange for an honest review.

Stay Awake available at:


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