59 pages 1 hour read

Matthew Blake

Anna O

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2024

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Summary and Study Guide


Anna O by Matthew Blake is a psychological thriller that follows Dr. Benedict Prince, a forensic psychologist, as he attempts to awaken Anna Ogilvy, a young journalist known as “Sleeping Beauty,” who allegedly murdered two people while sleepwalking. Driven by a government mandate to have Anna stand trial, Dr. Prince uses sensory stimulation therapy to delve into her subconscious and uncover the truth behind the murders. Through working with Anna, Ben is thrown into decades-old mysteries that put him and his family at risk.

This study guide refers to the 2024 Kindle eBook edition published by MJB Media Ltd.

Content Warning: The source material features discussions of psychosomatic disorders, trauma, and death by suicide.

Plot Summary

Dr. Benedict “Ben” Prince, a forensic psychologist, works at the Abbey Sleep Clinic in London. He’s divorced from Clara, who works in law enforcement. Clara had an affair with someone labeled “HOSPITAL” on her phone. Ben and Clara have a young daughter named Kitty. Late one night, Ben receives a call to come into the Abbey. He arrives to find his boss, Professor Virginia Bloom, and Stephen Donnelly from the justice department.

Donnelly asks Ben about his latest article on theories to cure resignation syndrome. In this syndrome, people fall into a coma-like state. Ben used Anna Ogilvy, a current sufferer of resignation syndrome, as his primary example. Donnelly is having Anna O transferred to the Abbey. Anna has been comatose for four years. They’ve sought other experts, but Ben is their last hope to awaken Anna before her trial.

Anna Ogilvy (known as Anna O) is now a 29-year-old woman who allegedly murdered her friends Douglas and Indira during a wilderness retreat. Her friends were stabbed, and Anna was found asleep with the knife. She had also texted her parents before sleeping, saying that she thought she had killed her friends. The media and true-crime fans have wondered for years if she’s innocent or guilty.

Ben works with Anna and her nurse, Harriet. He uses sensory stimulation to remind Anna of happier times. Ben wants to restore her hope so her mind feels safe enough to come out of hibernation. Through interviewing Anna’s parents, Ben learns of Anna’s dark sleepwalking episodes, including when she stabbed the family dog at age 9, stole things from her boarding school at 14, and attacked her mother after college graduation. Anna never remembered what occurred while she was sleepwalking.

Using Anna’s favorite music, touch from things like feathers, her preferred flowers, and talking to Anna as though she’s awake, Ben tests the sensory overload. One day, Anna’s eyes and hands twitch. Soon after, she awakens. Ben and Harriet test her mental and physical health. Though Anna seems fine, Ben declares she has post-traumatic amnesia. Anna doesn’t remember the murders. Thus, Ben protects Anna by telling Donnelly she isn’t ready for trial. Anna’s mother Emily reunites with her.

Ben’s point of view is interspersed with case notes, Anna’s notebook entries, and chapters from Bloom, Anna’s mother Emily, and Ben’s ex-wife Clara. Bloom is murdered, but she calls Ben before she’s stabbed and asks him to find case notes in her study. The case notes are about Patient X, who was Sally Turner’s child. Twenty years ago, Sally murdered her two stepsons, then was subjected to harsh mental treatments, and died by suicide. Ben tries to find the link between Sally Turner, Bloom, Anna, and Patient X. He doesn’t know that Anna was researching true crime to write the next In Cold Blood. Anna became obsessed with Sally Turner, and she was in touch with Patient X as her source.

Ben and Harriet are arrested as suspects, or at least Anna’s accomplices. Ben is framed for getting Harriet hired at the retreat, then drugging Anna to commit the murders, and using Anna to prove his resignation syndrome cure. Harriet dies by suicide in her cell, but she leaves a confessional stating Ben wasn’t involved. Harriet takes the blame for Anna, too. Ben is released. Anna will walk away free from trial now. To avoid the fallout of his disgraced career and persistent journalists, Ben moves to the Cayman Islands to teach college and practice therapy.

Connections between Anna, Patient X, and Sally become clearer. Ben is close to solving the mystery when Anna arrives at his island clinic. Anna is writing her memoir, and she wants Ben’s insight. Ben knows Anna plans to kill him, but he can’t escape. One night, Anna drugs Ben’s drink and accuses him of murdering her friends. Anna claims that  Ben is Patient X, Sally’s son, who wanted revenge on Anna’s family because her mother, Emily, approved a new, intensive therapy that caused Sally to die by suicide. Ben waited 20 years, but he got revenge on Emily by targeting her daughter, Anna. Anna further claims that Ben drugged her and killed her friends. Ben then dissociated his past to create the perfect crime in which he came out as a hero by saving Anna from her comatose state. Ben swears she’s got it all wrong. Anna watches him die.

A year later, Clara buys Anna’s bestselling memoir. She enjoys the book, but she knows Ben wasn’t at fault. With Anna’s publication, she can finally be free. Clara was Patient X. Harriet was her lover (whom she cheated on Ben with) and lifelong accomplice. Clara did everything Anna accused Ben of in order to avenge her mother, Sally. Though she’s upset that innocent Ben died, Clara lives happily with their daughter Kitty.

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