Police Officer Nick Holmes is on medical leave trying to rehabilitate a badly ravaged knee. Unofficially, he is helping a friend by managing his bar, when one Saturday night an attractive, scantily-clad blonde slips into the bar. After chasing away the guy trying to pick her up, Nick notices she is dazed and disoriented and without shoes or purse. Nick takes her home after she is able to tell him only that her name is Amanda and that she is not feeling well.
After what turns into a wild night of sex, Carla Terry wakes up in Nick's bed. Still disoriented, she knows she is not in her Boston home and that her name is not Amanda. She learns from Nick that it is Sunday morning and they are in Marina del Ray, California. The last thing Carla remembers was Friday night in Boston.
Carla knows that for her wild romp with Nick was out of character and believes that it was the product of some unknown external force – possibly a date rape drug. [Note: It was never clear to me what caused the 36-hour amnesia: the drug itself, or memory suppression from some trauma.]
When Nick realizes Carla really can't remember, he decides to check the police station for a missing person report. As the daughter of a chief of police who abused both Carla and her sister, Carla has a major distrust of cops. Fearing the police station, she "borrows" some cash from Nick's wallet, along with a credit card and flees Nick's apartment. Later that day, Nick notices the credit card is gone and reports it just minutes before she tries to use it. So Carla is picked up at the airport while trying to buy a ticket for Boston.
Searching for an answer to what happened during the "missing" 36 hours and how she got to the West Coast, she talks it out with Nick and begins to remember a few things. That night while flipping TV channels she sees the obituary of a former " mob boss." He is pictured with his deceased wife Amanda. Carla realizes then that Amanda was her sister Nina.
The next day she and Nick are walking on the beach when they come upon a spot
where a body is just being removed from the Pacific Ocean. What follows is
a classic example of deus ex machina. Carla identifies the body as that of her
ex-husband Richard – thus jump-starting an otherwise stalled plot.
Query: What are the odds of the tides and currents washing a body ashore at this particular time and place? What are the odds that a body that has been bobbing around in the Pacific Ocean for a couple of days will still be capable of visual identification? What are the odds that out of millions of people that body will turn out to be your ex-husband? What are the odds of all three of these things happening? A lottery ticket anyone?
But my problems with the story go beyond mere coincidences (even huge ones). Where, as here, an author relies almost totally on external conflicts, there must be something to draw the reader to the characters. That was missing from While She Was Sleeping. Was it because I was so frustrated from the lack of logical plot progression that I was unable to see or feel it? I hope not. But in the end, the result is the same.