PUBLICATION DATE: OCTOBER 4, 2011
aking Hoursby Lis Wiehl with Pete Nelson is an East Salem novel about a psychiatrist, a football player and a murder case. Dani teams up with old high school crush, ex-football star, Tommy, to investigate what appears to be a ritualistic teenage mass murder. Trying to keep the case at a professional distance is not possible once Dani’s dreams take an ugly turn and both Tommy and Dani suspect they might have middle of the night visitors breaking in their houses. Dani must use her years of training to see the confusing case from all possible angles in this whodunit.
Being married to a (handsome) man with a psychology degree, I fully appreciate the rare well-researched psychological thriller. It gets tedious reading books that take one main dysfunction and beat the reader over the head with it for three hundred pages. Wiehl and Nelson did a thorough job of researching and presenting the reader with several different psychological conditions and just how they would affect people. I believed Dani as a serious psychiatrist. I even believed her having a crush on Tommy. The characters were consistent through the entire book and not once could I catch the authors writing themselves onto the pages. I enjoyed following Dani through this mind-twister. The plot-twists were interesting and the climax was not too overdone. In fact, not everything was perfectly explained, which to some extent, I rather liked. Life doesn’t always fit neatly in a Christmas box, and I’m glad that the writers did not feel the need to wrap the ending up with a bow.
That being said, I’m not sure the ending sat well with me. The things left undone (or underdone, as the case maybe) were mostly spiritual or supernatural in nature. Perhaps it speaks to my own nature to want to stuff God into a box or a Petri dish so I can poke and prod until He makes perfect sense, which is so not the point of faith. Leaving so many things with the ellipses of “events that only God can explain”, I’ll admit, was unsatisfying at the end of this book. The list was just too long. This was a risky choice that the authors took. I would have much preferred not knowing who the murderer was, than why things that looked like omens were happening. The ending perhaps left the wrong things dangling. Then again, you can only go so far chasing a bad guy. You can, however, write several epistles chasing down the devil.
ast Salem was known for its sleepy town persona and wealthy, elite residents. However, the town suddenly experiences a rude awakening when a local high school girl is murdered in what appears to be some sort of ritual. The suspects are a group of teenagers who attended the same party with the victim. Unfortunately, when police talk to them, they all independently give the same answer—they can’t remember a thing. Forensic psychiatrist, Dani Harris, is brought in to help with the investigation and soon begins working on the case with a former high school acquaintance, Tommy Gunderson. Together the two begin to suspect this murder might be more than it appears on the surface and that supernatural forces are at work in the once safe haven of East Salem.
I have enjoyed Lis Wiehl’s Triple Threat series, though I do wonder how much it appeals to men and is a little loaded with personal and political issues. When I heard she was going to be starting a new series with co-author Pete Nelson, I was hoping this new collaboration would be a little more gender neutral and perhaps less politic and issue driven. I’m happy to report it is! It also includes a supernatural element that if properly nourished has the potential to add a nice dimension to The East Salem Trilogy.
While I like the direction this series seems to be heading, I had some mixed feelings about Waking Hours. I very much liked the plot. I thought the authors did a nice job of coming up with a murder that would shake the town enough to bring in the hysteria element without being intrusive to the story. Though I wish Tommy and Dani would have had less perfect personalities, their past did help to balance out their current squeaky characters. However, I would have liked for there to have been a bit more current character development rather than the development have been in the past. I didn’t feel like the characters grew as the story progressed, instead it felt like they had already grown and the story was catching up to where they were. I greatly appreciate that the romance angle was not shoved to completion in this first book. While I won’t say it’s slow in development, it does not invade the story and the authors seem in no hurry to have them married and living happily ever after.
I really enjoyed the story line, but it lacked a little in pulling me into the story. I wanted more suspense than was provided and kept hoping to be kept up until 2:13 AM reading. Unfortunately, that level of engagement never happened. This is probably a consequence of the writing feeling somewhat awkward at times. The flow wasn’t quite there, so the transitions or stray story element often drew me from the story. Additionally, it didn’t seem like the authors knew exactly how they wanted to incorporate the supernatural element or exactly who they wanted to define it. I know there are two more books to flesh this part out, but it didn’t fit naturally into this story. It also didn’t help that it felt like an afterthought when several pages at the end were dedicated specifically to this story element after the main story had concluded. It came off as preaching and then confusing when the supernatural element took a bizarre turn that blindsided me because it didn’t feel adequately setup.
Despite a few issues, Waking Hours looks like it has great potential. It’s very much in line with the type of books I like to read and while not totally edgy, it has a darker feel than Wiehl’s Triple Threat series. I look forward to seeing Tommy and Dani team up again and expect the second book in The East Salem Trilogy to build nicely on this one.