Lead Review

  • Book: Sleeping with a Psychopath
  • Location: The West Country
  • Author: Carolyn Woods

Review Author: Tina Hartas



Sleeping with a Psychopath happened to pop up on my audiobook feed and so I thought, why not! It is set largely in the West Country (Tetbury and Bath) but it’s not a book you would really choose for location. This is the story and settling of scores for one vulnerable yet determined woman who came under the spell of a serial swindler and arch manipulator called Mark Acklom. He spun a convincing story of wealth and glamour for the author of this book and here she records her version of events. This is her story.

Now I know that there will be many people out there who will simply ponder the question “Why didn’t she leave; why did she let things go on for 18 months?”. When anyone who is in a relationship where the balance of power is out of kilter, then coercive control can set in from day 1, and as time passes the tactics, subtle at first, will corral the less powerful person – well honed tactics of undermining confidence through criticism; alienating the less powerful person from their friends and family, so they become more malleable. Make no mistake, this can happen to virtually anyone given the right circumstances.

I often wonder if anyone working for MI6 – which Acklom purported to be doing – would ever actually reveal that they are an operative for the organisation; I am guessing not, but he built and confabulated his stories around his supposed undercover work. It seemed to be a drama, a game for him. He clearly entertained himself, royally conjuring up scenarios to give credence to his storyline. Before long the author is paying for wildly costly items, and any quavering request for repayment is countered by remarks that kept her firmly in her place. Suggestions she should have botox and facial surgery, his lateness (serial lateness is a form of control), and his hot/cold engagement all served to exert a push/pull on her psyche.

There were indeed several points at which I could feel my eyes widening and the first was when, within 48 hours or so, he had suddenly stripped naked in her sitting room, anticipating a quick visit to her bed. He also intimated that he needed libidinous activity several times a day and that had me thinking, ah, sexual addiction. He then dropped in on a gathering of her friends and family, where he behaved and showed off appallingly. It was at that point that I really struggled to understand how she reconciled his abysmal behaviour. By now he had her incarcerated in a rental flat in the centre of Bath, a gilded cage, for which in fact she was paying and where she began to feel distressed and unhappy.

And so it continued until she has a damascene moment, decided to confront him and then never heard from him again, having fleeced her of hundreds of thousands of pounds. The second half of the book is her mission to see him brought to justice.

This book is like watching a slow motion car crash, there are plenty of tells along the way that are indicative of what he is up to but she simply is in too deep and cannot see it.

I think she is very brave to have written this all down – the second half is perhaps a little less riveting than the first, and her tone has become weary – not surprisingly. But she shows grit and determination to see his sentencing through to the end. She must know he will see her version of events written down in the book but she has gone past the point of humiliation. Hopefully – ultimately – she will make enough money from the sales of the book to start out on life again.

A salutary story for most of us, and particularly those who feel it would never happen to them. It just could!

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