A murder she doesn’t remember committing. A killer she doesn’t remember meeting. Megan Goldin’s Stay Awake is an electrifying novel that proves memory can be deadly.
Liv Reese wakes up in the back of a taxi with no idea where she is or how she got there. When she’s dropped off at the door of her brownstone, a stranger answers—a stranger who claims to live in her apartment. She reaches for her phone to call for help, only to discover it’s missing. In its place is a bloodstained knife. Her hands are covered in scribbled messages, like graffiti on her skin: STAY AWAKE.
Two years ago, Liv was thriving as a successful writer for a trendy magazine. Now, she’s lost and disoriented in a New York City that looks nothing like what she remembers. Catching a glimpse of the local news, she’s horrified to see reports of a crime scene where the victim’s blood has been used to scrawl a message across a window, similar to the message that’s inked on her hands. What did she do last night? And why does she remember nothing from the past two years? Liv finds herself on the run for a crime she doesn’t remember committing. But there’s someone who does know exactly what she did, and they’ll do anything to make her forget—permanently.
A complex thriller that unfolds at a breakneck speed, Stay Awake will keep you up all night.
A Macmillan Audio production from St. Martin's Press.
Release date: August 9, 2022
Publisher: St. Martin's Publishing Group
Print pages: 352
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Listen to a sample
There’s nothing familiar about Nocturnal when I press my face to the stippled glass door of the bar entrance. Smudges of color move behind the thick art deco glass like an impressionist painting coming to life.
The roar of the bar spills into the street when the doors open. The blur of colors I saw through the mottled glass turn into people in long overcoats, arranging scarves around their necks. Their inebriated eyes scan for passing cabs as they talk loudly among themselves in voices not yet modulated for the quiet of the street.
Once they pass, I grab the door before it shuts and enter a cavernous room filled with moody lighting and a deafening hum of laughter and clinking glasses.
“We’re closing soon,” an attendant tells me as if she knows me.
She disconnects a velvet red cord. It flops behind me as I walk inside. To my right is a closed-off section with empty restaurant tables. A cleaner in a white uniform silently mops the floor as if he is slow-dancing in his sleep.
I go down two steps into the busy bar area, where I get tangled in a party of eight rising from their table. They scrape their chairs against the floor as they get to their feet and drunkenly stumble toward the entrance. They take the bulk of the noise with them.
A few hard-core drinkers remain, swilling their drinks as they perch on stools. None of them talk to each other. They keep their eyes firmly on their liquor glasses as if that’s their only source of solace. Behind the bar is a 1930s-era triple-paneled mirror.
It feels as if I’m looking at a distorted version of myself in a carnival mirror. My hair is very long and much darker than my natural honey-brown shade. It’s the color of coffee: Americano. I plait it to get it out of the way, surprised at how practiced I am at a skill I don’t remember learning.
A bartender with a dark goatee and white shirtsleeves rolled to his elbows to reveal a tattoo pours a drink for a man slouched on a barstool. The bartender looks directly at me, flashing a broad smile filled with warm recognition.
I’m so surprised this stranger knows my name that I instinctively glance behind me to see if some other woman with the same name happens to be in the vicinity.
“I knew you’d come back before we closed.” It’s as if he’s picking up the thread of a previous conversation.
“What can I get you, Liv? It’s on the house.”
“Thanks, but all I want is water,” I tell him as I squirm onto a vacant barstool. “I’m not drinking tonight.”
“That’s not what you told me a few hours ago,” he chuckles, handing me a glass of ice water.
“I was here earlier?”
The bartender’s eyes dance in delight at my brain freeze. “Sure. At around ten. You had a few drinks and then you left.”
“You were with a dude, Liv,” he says, watching me carefully. “You don’t remember?”
My chest tightens with unease. The bartender clearly knows more about me than I do right now.
I must have been here with Marco. Maybe we were drinking. That would explain the out-of-body sensation I’ve felt since I woke in the cab.
“Everything’s fuzzy right now,” I explain. “What did he look like, the guy I was with?”
“I only saw the back of your heads as you left. The place was jam-packed. You know what it’s like when we have a live band playing.”
I smile knowingly, even though I don’t remember anything. Not the bartender. Not this bar. Not the man I left with last night. I change the subject and ask whether I left my purse or my cell phone when I was here earlier. They both appear to be missing.
“Not that I’ve seen, but I’ll ask the staff once we close and let you know when you come in tomorrow.” He pours liquor into a cocktail shaker.
I’m so focused on trying to reconstruct last night from the tiny scraps of information he’s given me that I jump when he puts a cocktail glass in front of me and asks me what I think.
“It’s a new take on a gin and tonic. I use ginger ale instead of tonic. Try it.”
I shudder as the liquor hits my throat.
“You don’t like it?”
“It’s pretty good, actually. It’s just that I’m not in the mood for alcohol tonight.”
I stifle an exhausted yawn. The brass clock on the wall says it’s close to four in the morning. “I should go. It’s way past my bedtime,” I joke.
“You’re never in bed at this time,” he assures me.
“Then where am I?”
“Here. Drinking. Talking to me. Taste-testing my new cocktails. Anywhere but in bed.”
“You hate sleeping. Especially at night.”
The manager announces the bar is closing in five minutes. As if in unison, all the stragglers sitting along the bar swallow what’s left of their drinks and trail out of the main doors to the street. I hang around talking to the bartender as the staff pile chairs on tables.
“How do you know so much about me?”
“You tell me all your secrets,” he teases.
In answer, he gestures toward the ballpoint letters above my knuckles that spell out the words STAY AWAKE. I snatch my hands away in embarrassment.
“I sometimes write reminders to myself,” I explain, self-consciously. “It’s a bad habit. From when I was a kid.”
“You do it so you don’t forget stuff. Like this.” He points to writing on my hand that says: DON’T SLEEP! Below it, partly hidden by my sleeve, it says: WAKE UP.
“What do I have against sleep?”
“You’re afraid of what you do in your sleep.” He flips a white cloth off his shoulder and wipes a beer glass dry as his words sink in. “At least, that’s what you told me the other night.”
“What could I possibly do in my sleep?” I ask.
Then I remember the bloodied knife.
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