Before He Wakes

Before He Wakes by Mark Allan Gunnells

Patrick and Clare wake up trapped in a basement, a thin wall separating their cells. Their captor is mysteriously absent, which at first seems like a blessing. As more time passes with no food or water, they begin to realize a clock is ticking for their survival.

Combining their intelligence and determination, the two begin plotting an escape from their shared prison. Overcoming each obstacle only presents another obstacle standing in the way of their freedom. It will take all of their ingenuity and strength to find their way out of this mess.

They know their captor is still out there, and it is only a matter of time before he returns.

Before He Wakes is a fast-paced and tense thriller that ratchets up the suspense and tension before the thrilling conclusion.

Proudly represented by Crystal Lake Publishing—Tales from the Darkest Depths.

The IndieMuse Review

Crystal Lake Publishing has a solid reputation in the horror community and, for the most part, I trust them to deliver quality products. Which turned out to be a good thing in this case.

Mark Allan Gunnells has been on my radar for a while, but this is the first thing I have read by him. The blurb for Before He Wakes got my attention immediately and I knew I wanted to read this one. The concept was a fascinating one and I had high hopes going in to it.

The opening chapter was absolutely brilliant, with a man standing in line in a shop, impatiently waiting to get back to his family. It is obvious he is antisocial and just wants the chore over. When he leaves, in an attempt to escape Girl Scouts, he walks right in front of a car, which hits him and leaves him in a coma.

Next chapter: We meet Patrick, who wakes up in a basement cell, having been abducted. He soon finds there is another captor—a teen named Clare—who has been a prisoner for much longer. There is a thin wall separating their cells, but she fills him in on what she knows.

Their captor calls himself Big Daddy, and he calls her his daughter and told her Patrick would be her brother. And, as the clock keeps ticking and their captor does not return, they have to face the possibility that they were left to starve to death. They were on their own. If they couldn’t escape, it probably meant they would never leave this place alive.

In the hospital, the man in the coma is slowly gaining consciousness. Who knows how long he will be there before he can go home?

As the clock keeps ticking and the obstacles keep mounting, will they be able to escape their prison before Big Daddy comes back?

I loved the idea of this one. So simple, yet with so much potential. Sadly, I did not enjoy this one as much as I thought I would.

The problem was this: There is a certain style of writing, where a lot of information is given to the reader, in the hopes of pulling them in and allowing them the opportunity to solve whatever-the-case-may-be. It works very well in police procedurals and some thrillers. And while I have read very long horror books by masters like Stephen King or Robert McCammon, they are an exception to the rule. Horror needs to keep the reader on the edge of their seats.

I am all for character development, as long as it keeps the story flowing. There was so much unnecessary info and situations given in this book, it frustrated me. Who cares about Robert, Patrick’s boyfriend, and his back story and what he is going through if it is not going to play a part in the resolution of the story?

The thing is, while describing Patrick and Clare’s predicament and what they are trying to do, the reader is on the edge of their seat. When you move away to other things like the search and personal relationships etc., it takes the tension way down. Which means, when we go back to the two captives, the nervous energy is gone and it must be built again from the start.

If you take away everything but the chapters with Patrick, Clare and the man in the hospital, it would have been a nail-biting ride from start to finish. Cut the story by 20% and improve the pace!

It was difficult to get through this one for me. It felt so much longer than the page count, simply because it didn’t hold my interest throughout. If I can be totally honest, if this wasn’t a review copy and I only picked it up because it sounded interesting, I would have abandoned it before the halfway mark.

So, in my head I was going with 2.5-3 stars, because the writing wasn’t bad. And then, the last 10% of this story knocked me on my ass—it was a brilliant twist and an excellent finish to this story. This left me conflicted on how I should rate this—to be fair to both the author and myself.

In the end, I’m going with 3.5 STARS. The journey to get to the great part was not a pleasant one. If the author could have avoided the over-description of unnecessary information, that ending may have pushed this up to 4.5 stars. I can’t ignore the fact that I wanted to give up on this one.


Mort Stone lives in untamed Africa, where he rides his lion to work every morning to slave away as a scientist who learned how to fake competency.

Reading is his passion…well, the one he can admit to, anyway. As an aggressive pacifist, he chooses to fight vicariously through stories which can bring him no physical harm.

While he is almost confidant that his IQ is in the top 50%, his wife regularly reminds him of all the stupid things he does. He will neither admit nor deny the accusations of sarcasm, but he can act like he cares. Most of the time.

As an avid reader of horror and thrillers, and somewhat of a movie buff in those genres, he still blames his insomnia on Global Warming. Because he can.

He would also like to apologize in advance for any swear words which might slip through…he will blame that on the insomnia.

Curation Results: Before He Wakes

Curator Notes: "Crystal Lake Publishing's production continues its quality offerings and Gunnells knows how to write. Staff was split down the middle: one half finding little fault with the plot and the other half finding the storyline somewhat bloated and in need of tightening." —gHoster


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