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Sleepyhead by Mark Billingham

>> Thursday, November 11, 2010

Sleepyhead by Mark Billingham

Genre: Mystery / Crime Fiction
Series: #1 in the Tom Thorne series
Publication Date: 2001
Pages: 310
Challenges: Support Your Local Library #47
Source: Library

The Short Version:
Detective Tom Thorne takes on the hunt for a serial killer whose goal isn’t killing his victims, but instead to leave them alert, but totally incapacitated.

Why I Read It:
Mulholland Books was kind enough to send me a galley of the 8th book in this series (which they will be releasing in July) and I wanted to use the time between now and then to catch up on the earlier books in the series.

The Book:
After several women are found to have died from induced strokes, the police are finally making the connections that there is a killer on the loose. When one of the women survives her attack, but is left incapacitated and uncommunicative, the authorities believe the killer has made a mistake that could lead to his capture.

When the lead detective, Tom Thorne finds a note from the killer on his car the motives of the killer turn out to be almost more sinister than previously thought. The women who died were his mistakes. The one who is still alive, but trapped in a body that cannot function is the one he considers his first success.

Tom Thorne is a dedicated detective with plenty of personal baggage. He’s haunted by an old case, he’s still mourning the deaths of his mother and his marriage, he doesn’t exactly follow the rules and he’s attracted to the victim’s doctor whose friend may or may not be the prime suspect.

Interspersed with Thorne’s investigation are sections where the killer is followed but not identified. Even more interesting are the sections where the still living but unable to communicate victim has the chance to tell what is going on from her viewpoint and in her mind from her hospital bed.

My Thoughts:
I enjoy many British crime stories and the opportunity to immerse myself in a new to me series about which I’ve heard good things turned out to be something I just couldn’t resist.

Tom Thorne is the kind of protagonist I find in many of my favorite series. He’s a dedicated detective who takes justice for victims seriously and the rules of authority in the police bureaucracy not quite so seriously. He’s got a past that haunts him for several reasons, and while he is at times someone I may not like, I find him fascinating.

The story is an interesting psychological mystery and crime procedural. The killer is clearly a very twisted person and the idea that the victim who lived is the success rather than the mistake is creepy. Thorne hones in and locks on early on a prime suspect, but the authorities disagree with him. I couldn’t tell if this was going to be one of those stories where the detective going against the grain was going to be right or wrong. The clues and twists kept coming and I changed my mind several times along the way.

It turned out that I was right in my guess as to the outcome, but I was left unsure about that guess long enough to just enjoy the mystery and suspense as they played out.

I liked the way Billingham let Allison (the victim in the hospital) tell her part of the story in her own words. It was an interesting and well done element in the narrative.

A well done first novel and I’m looking forward to continuing with this series in preparation for reading Bloodline next summer.

Rating 4/5


Eleanor 11/11/2010 1:49 PM  

This sounds great. I love a new twist, and that is pretty twisty.

Eleanor 11/11/2010 1:53 PM  

Darn it. Publisher is out of stock indefinitely. Hoping that his newest one will help give the series new life!

Vickie 11/11/2010 6:59 PM  

I've got one of the author's books on Mt Git'r'Read, need to find it and read it when I am back in thriller mode.

Anonymous,  11/12/2010 7:28 AM  

i'm not a huge mystery person but your review was great...i'll have to look for this

Beth F 11/13/2010 6:25 AM  

Drat. Not sure if I should thank you or not. Yet another mystery series? + (<-- sign of the cross) Back, back I say ..... Arghhh, already wondering if I can get this on my Nook.

Eva 11/13/2010 12:51 PM  

Just reading the plot summary creeps me out! *shiver*

Is this a bit hard-boiled? About as 'hard' as I handle is PD James...have you read her?

S. Krishna 11/13/2010 3:56 PM  

I'm with Beth Fish Reads - another great mystery series? I love it, but I have so many to read as it is!! :-) Thanks for the review.

SuziQoregon 11/17/2010 8:45 PM  

El: I'm really looking forward to getting caught up with the series before reading the new one. Is it legal for booksellers to use the library? That's where I found a copy.

Vickie: Oh this is a series that's right up your alley!!

BethF and S. Krishna: I guess my only response is "payback" for all the books/series you've added to MY TBR list ;-)

Eva: I haven't read PD James, but yeah, I'd call this one fairly hard boiled.

Jenn's Bookshelves 11/19/2010 6:36 AM  

I'm doing the same thing you are; catching up with the series in anticipation of the release of the newest book!

Bookie 11/19/2010 10:33 AM  

CREEPIE! Me likey!

SuziQoregon 11/23/2010 9:07 PM  

Jenn: I'm glad Bloodline isn't being released until July. I think I'll be able to read all the earlier books in time.

Bookie: Me too! ;-)

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment. I read and respond them here although not always right away. If you would prefer an email response let me know.

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