This was my first book by this author and my first cult novel. I’ve watched cult shows before, though, and I usually enjoy them. There is an atmospheric unease to them that is scarier than most other thrillers, and this chilling read is no exception.

About the Book

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What if I told you that sleep was just a habit? What if the third of your life you spend asleep, you could be awake instead?

Grafton is a single dad who works in local radio, but he’s always dreamt of being a ‘real’ journalist. When he gets a whiff of a story – a Scottish commune whose residents believe that sleep is a social construct – he decides to investigate… something tells him ‘the Sleepless’ might finally provide answers about his wife, Liz, who abandoned him and their son Isaac for a similar cult in India.

Born out of COVID-19’s age of ‘alternative truths’, this commune set in Ardnamurchan, Scotland, rejects societal routines of sleep with the aim of achieving a toxin cleanse, a nirvana of sorts…

However Grafton finds the truth of the commune is much more sinister and its governance thirsts for blood, using torturous methods to keep its followers weak…

As Grafton is drawn deeper into the extreme world of the Sleepless, Liz reappears, and Grafton has to race to save both himself and his son…

My Thoughts

Like most cult stories, this is an incredibly atmospheric read. Full of beach scenes that are far from sunny and nice, and descriptions of events that will likely haunt you long after you turn the last page. I think the scariest thing of all is just how convincing the cult in this book actually is, though. How many of us have thought “if I just had a few more hours in my day.” And they’re promising you as many as you can steal back from sleeping. Certainly sounds tempting to me. Or it would, if I hadn’t already been going through a long bout of insomnia. I’m barely clocking four hours a night these days, and I’m calling BS on this one cult peeps.

There were a few times when the pacing felt a little slow, but the story was compelling enough that I really needed to know what was happening. Or what was going to happen. This was another story where all of the characters were incredibly flawed and not very lovable. Several of them had growth arcs, and some had redemption stories. And the ending left me very unsettled, which is something I think the best thrillers often do.

Who’s It For?

If you love cult stories, this is a winner for you. Also, if you love a good atmospheric, psychological thrill ride, pick this one up. However, there are several trigger warnings you should be aware of before you do so.

Content Warnings: This book contains the following content that may be disturbing to some readers including, but not limited to, Alcohol abuse, Drug Abuse, Sexual Assault, Graphic Violence, Torture, Sleep Deprivation, Child Abandonment, Starvation, Food Deprivation, Child Neglect, and Child Abuse.

Question of the Day

Do you have a favorite cult story – true crime or imagined?

About the Author

Liam Bell is the author of three previous novels, Man at Sea, So It Is, and The Busker, as well as short stories and articles in publications including New Writing Scotland, Litro, and Northwords Now. He was born in Orkney and grew up in Glasgow. He has studied at Queen’s University Belfast, the University of Glasgow, and the University of Surrey and now teaches at the University of Stirling. More information at or on X (formerly Twitter) @liammurraybell.

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