Sunday 11 January 2009

SLEEPYHEAD BY MARK BILLINGHAM


Sleepyhead
Mark Billingham
Time/Warner £6.99 UK
Originally publishd 2001

The was Mark Billingham's debut novel and the one that introduced the world to the hard arsed detective Tom Thorne - I've read all the Thorne thrillers - 6 so far - but I thought I'd re-read this book which first introduced me to a series that is among my favourites in the crime genre.

Tom Thorne owes much to the detective anti-hero of American Hard boiled fiction as well as the more suburban British version. But it is this skilled mixture of both and more besides which makes him such a captivating character.

This is of the type of book I think of as, High Concept Crime. You know where the method of killing is pretty unusual. It's basically a serial killer novel but the unique method of the crime makes the book stand out against the hordes of other serial killer novels that have cropped up at the rate of knots since Silence of the Lambs was such a massive success.

Alison Willetts is unlucky to be alive. She is the latest victim of a serial killer but unlike the other victims she has survived. Her attacker caused her to have a stroke by deliberately manipulating pressure points on her head and neck. She can see, hear, feel and is completely aware of what is going on around her but she in unable to move or communicate. It's called locked in syndrome.

D.I. Tom Thorne is determined to catch the madman and feels that in leaving Alison alive he has made his first mistake, however it soon becomes clear that the previous victims, all dead, were the failures and that Alison is his first success. The only person able to identify the killer is Alison and she's unable to communicate in any way.

He must be stopped before he kills again, or worse condemns more people into this living death.

It's a great novel - part horror and part thriller and all adrenaline pushing, page turning, shiver inducing, mayhem. The author has gone onto great things and is perhaps only second to Ian Rankin in the stakes for the UK's favourite crime writer. He's built a following in the US as well and all of the books are available in American editions.

Look out on The Tainted Archive for an interview with Mark just as soon as he can find time in his busy schedule to sit down and answer my questions.

Highly recommended.

The Tom Thorne Books

SLEEPYHEAD
SCARDEY CAT
LAZYBONES
THE BURNING GIRL
LIFELESS
BURIED
DEATH MESSAGE

STAND ALONE NOVEL
IN THE DARK

3 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

I quickly grew tired of serial killer books. I wrote one serial killer story in my life, and it was pretty well recieved. But after that I didn't feel like writing another. These sound interesting, though.

Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin said...

Charles - know what you mean. There were so many serial killer books around at one time - however this one is fresh and wonderfully written. Also Tom Thorne is great detective . The author is also a well know stand up comedian which is perhaps why he handles black humour so well.

Steve M said...

Gary if you keep posting reviews such as this I'm gonna find myself reading too many books that aren't westerns! ;)

Looking forward to the interview.

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