We Value Your Privacy

This site uses cookies to improve user experience. By continuing to browse, you accept the use of cookies and other technologies.


Your Unsettling Dreams Will Haunt You After Reading This New Mystery Thriller 

What if your nightmares weren't really nightmares at all?

  • camera-icon
  • Photo Credit: Featured photo: Jp Valery / Unsplash

Many of us have woken from a horrifically realistic nightmare in a cold sweat, our hearts thumping and our eyes brimming with tears. The relief that rushes in after realizing you're still safely tucked in bed, is one of the best feelings in the world. 

But what if your nightmare wasn’t merely a strange phenomenon from your subconscious? What if you never actually woke up? 

Debut author Matthew Blake explores these questions in his new psychological mystery thriller, Anna O. Before writing his first novel, Blake worked as a researcher and speechwriter at the Palace of Westminster and has worked as a screenwriter with BBC and ITV Studios, among other UK indies.

But upon learning that on average, people will spend 33 years of their lives sleeping, Blake began heavily researching sleep-related crimes and the mysterious illness known as “resignation syndrome”—a condition that places individuals in a comatose state from which doctors have been unable to provide a concrete medical explanation. 

Amid his research, Blake began wondering what would happen if someone murdered while sleepwalking—could they be held responsible, or would they be deemed innocent? This curiosity manifested itself in a novel that promises to instill a fear of falling asleep.

Blake’s novel Anna O is a dual-perspective narrative that follows forensic psychologist Dr. Benedict Prince as he attempts to solve the “Anna O” case—in which Anna Ogilvy, a 25-year-old writer, stabbed two people to death one night and has been in a comatose state ever since.

Now, Benedict Prince is faced with waking up this “Sleeping Beauty” so she can tell Benedict what happened that night and stand trial for her crimes. With an addictive story, astounding plot twists, layered character development, and tension-filled suspense, Anna O will keep readers awake long into the night—perhaps for the best.

To read an excerpt from Matthew Blake’s Anna O continue below, where you can also pre-order the book set to be released on January 2, 2024. 

Read an excerpt of Anna O—then pre-order the book!




Anna O

By Matthew Blake


‘The average human spends thirty-three years of their life asleep.’ She leans closer, enough for me to catch a gust of expensive perfume. This is usually the moment when I know. ‘And that’s what you do?’ 


‘A sleep doctor?’ 

‘I study people who commit crimes when they sleep.’ I have ‘Dr’ before my name on business cards. Dr Benedict Prince, The Abbey, Harley Street. I am an expert in sleep. Nowhere do I claim to be a medical doctor. 

She sees that I’m serious. ‘How’s that even possible?’ 

‘Don’t you ever wonder what you might have done when you were asleep?’ 

Most people get uncomfortable right around here. The majority of crimes have a distancing factor. We revel in stories about people just like us; but who are also not like us. But sleep doesn’t allow that qualification. 

Sleep is the one universal, the night as constant as the day. 

‘What kind of crimes?’ 

She hasn’t changed the topic. I still have her attention. ‘All the worst ones.’

‘Surely people would wake up?’ 

‘Not if they’re sleepwalking. I’ve known patients who lock their doors and drive their cars while still asleep. Some people even kill.’ 

‘Surely you’d remember?’ 

‘From the lines around your eyes, I’m guessing you slept five and a half hours last night.’ 

She frowns. ‘It’s that obvious?’ 

‘Do you have any memory of what happened during those five and a half hours?’ 

She pauses, cupping her chin in her right hand. ‘I dreamt something.’ 

‘Like what?’ 

‘I can’t remember.’ 

‘My point is proved.’ 

Her eyes suddenly change now. She looks at me differently. Her voice is louder, the body language animated. ‘Wait, there was that case. What was it called—’ 

This is the final point. Few dates ever reach this far. I bore them with my job description. I scare them away with stories about crimes committed during sleep. If that doesn’t work, then this last thing always gets me. 

No one stays once they realise. 

No one. 

‘Anna O,’ I say. I take a final sip of my wine – an expensive Merlot, more’s the pity – and then reach for my jacket. 

‘You’re the guy. In the photo. The psychologist.’ 

I smile dimly. I check my watch. ‘Yes,’ I say. ‘I was.’ 

It was the photo on the front of every major daily newspaper after it happened – that brutal, blood-soaked finale. The fateful moment after which nothing could be the same. Before the exile and the fall. I am the bespectacled figure with mussed hair and the slightly donnish dress sense. I have remade myself since. The beard has aged me; the hair is greyer at the tips. My glasses are chunkier and less like a reject from the Harry Potter props department. But I can’t change my eyes or my face.

I am a different person. I am the same person. I wait for the question because it is the question I am always asked. It is the one mystery that, despite everything, still lingers. It divides families, spouses, even friends. 

‘Was she guilty?’ my date asks, or the woman who was formerly my date. I am nothing but a ghoul to her now, an anecdote for Christmastime or New Year. ‘When she stabbed those two people. Did she really get away with murder?’

  • camera-icon
  • Photo Credit: Annie Spratt / Unsplash


One year earlier




The mobile rings. 

That’s what I always remember. 

The first thing, the beginning. 

It’s late, the darkness already heavy, inked in. I am half-asleep, nesting in an armchair with a tray of lukewarm curry and a half- empty glass of cheap wine. A black-and-white movie continues to play, flickering in the corner of the room. It’s Strangers on a Train tonight, my favourite. Everyone else picks Psycho or Vertigo as their ultimate Hitchcock piece. But they’re wrong. Strangers on a Train has the tennis scene. 

The mobile’s vibration snaps me back to the room. My eyelids droop. I wipe grease from my hands and glance at the caller ID: ‘BLOOM, PROF (The Abbey)’. I slide the button across, brace myself, choking down a messy yawn. 


‘Ben, sorry for the unholy hour. I’m afraid this one couldn’t wait.’ 

She sounds serious. And, in the blur of night, it startles me. Professor Virginia Bloom is usually the first one with a joke or aside. She is often found marching down Oxford Street in a kaftan and heels or at her corner table in the Langham with a decanter of whisky and a pocket of stimulants.

I hear the distant clatter of feet and voices on the line. It sounds like Bloom is still at the Abbey. I check the clock. It’s nearly midnight. 

‘Is something wrong?’ 

‘You could say that.’ Bloom clears her throat with that grumbly, smoky sound. ‘It’s one for you, I’m afraid. A new request that’s just come in. It’s somewhat on the sensitive side.’ 

I am a forensic psychologist. I have consulted for most major crime agencies. The NCA, FBI and Interpol all have this number. But this sounds even more secretive than usual. ‘Does this request have a name?’ 

There’s further background clatter down the phoneline. Bloom seems distracted. ‘Come round to the Abbey, will you. I’ve been told not to discuss anything on an open line.’

I’m officially on a week’s leave. My latest journal article is on a deadline. I have three patient files to write up. I was planning to work from home tomorrow and tackle the mountain of paperwork. Even so, there are only a few sleep-related cases that are too sensitive for an open line. I am blackmailed by the mystery of it, just as Bloom intends.

‘You have to give me something.’ 

I hear a suck of air on the other end of the line. Bloom is silent and then she sighs loudly. ‘You might not thank me for it.’ 

It’s arctic outside, a filthy sky full of September drizzle. I am already dreading the journey from Pimlico to Harley Street. I can stay in the stew of the front room with my Hitchcock film and another glass of wine. But that isn’t how I’m wired. 

It’s why I answer. Why I always answer. 

‘It’s the Anna O case,’ Bloom says, at last. ‘There’s something they want us to see.’

Want to read more of Anna O? Pre-order your own copy below.

Featured photo: Jp Valery / Unsplash; Annie Spratt / Unsplash