Detective Katie Reeves nearly lost her life when a fleeing prisoner ran into her and she hit the concrete pavement headfirst. Her head injury resulted in a coma and when Katie finally emerged, she had amnesia. But Who’s Been Sleeping in Her Bed is not your average amnesia story since Katie’s form of amnesia is the type where memory never returns. In addition, Katie lost primary sensory functions of taste and smell, together with fine motor skills.
After weeks of therapy, Katie is finally physically able to leave the convalescent treatment center, and her husband Mitch is anxious to take her home to their ranch.. But Katie does not remember being married, and discovers that at the time of her accident she and Mitch were separated. With her only relative living far away, Katie has nowhere else to go. Mitch persuades her to give the living arrangement a two month trial.
Who’s Been Sleeping in Her Bed invites the reader into Kate’s mind and thoughts as she engages, over the course of many pages, in an extended conversation with herself, mentally musing over possibilities, and seeking resolution of her problems without any conversation or contact with other characters.
First, Katie envies others their life’s experiences amidst the denial that she was ever married to Mitch. When the evidence is indisputable that they were married, she agonizes over why they might have separated. As she begins to fall in love with him again, she finds her new self in competition with her old self. Her final angst is: which Katie is Mitch really in love with, the old or new?
The problem with this novel is that most of Kate’s search for the truth is accomplished almost entirely through her ongoing inner dialogue. Her interaction with other characters is minimal, and very few things are happening.
What dialogue there is does not flesh out Mitch as a character other than to expose the angst arising from his fear that this Katie will leave him as his former Katie and his own mother had done. There are few shifts in point of view, and Mitch’s feelings are brought forward primarily by the author sharing what he is thinking rather than what he is doing. With awkward scene shifts, the sameness of the inner dialogue seems to make the angst go on forever.
And then there is the suspense portion of the novel. A young mother is run off a road deliberately, and then dies in the car accident. Her six-year-old son, who is with her, ceases to talk. A homicide, which occurred nearby, seems to be inexorably linked to this traffic accident. The detective bureau finds the child, Jacob, is drawn to Katie, she in turn draws him out and in a couple of scenes at the end that feel very contrived, all is solved.
The most interesting part of the book is the subtle contrast of hysterical amnesia with the type of amnesia found in this book where the victim never regains memory and fights to relearn many basic skills. It is truly difficult for an author to have a character “think her way through” the many overwhelming problems facing Katie and Mitch in this story. Without much action, the pace is, by definition, slow, and the way that the story’s conflicts are resolved is never credible.
Dalton deserves credit for originality, although execution is weak.