Book review

Mark Billingham
Time Warner

SleepyheadA new kid on the block. In a genre that is practically saturated with authors, it's refreshing to find that somebody can still come up with the goods and add themselves to the list of soon to be best sellers. Mark Billingham has just become that man.

Sleepyhead is not just a crime novel with a hoary serial killer. It verges on the exceptional. DI Tom Thorne is a well thought out and likeable character in the traditional mould - drinks a bit much, busted marriage - but it's the way Billingham has ground him in reality that really gets you behind him. Not suffering fools, and making the same mistakes we all make, signals him out for a long career on the shelf as it were.
    With a protagonist worthy of Lecter himself, Sleepyhead is one of those rare treats that you never want to end. With three dead bodies under the his belt, Thorne comes to Alison Willetts - lucky to be alive but unable to communicate due to a stroke and suffering from Locked-In Syndrome - aware of everything and yet completely paralysed. With a subtle unfolding of the facts, it's very early on that we find that this was the intention - the three dead girls were a mistake and this is the success. From that moment on, Billingham has got me stuck in the beanbag.
    With its base in London and not LA or NYC, Sleepyhead rolls around the old town, dragging with it that air of uncertainty that used to be so prevalent in the Holmes books - not in its Jack The Ripper Victorian brutality, but more in the way that Boris Starling's Messiah does; slowly and methodically unravelling everything in its path - detective, protagonist, reader . . .

I know I chew up books like a shredder, but Sleepyhead is an absolute, no option, one sitting read. With a cast of characters that can run and run, if this is your bag, check out Billingham's next novel too - Scaredy Cat. Not bad for a stand up comic turned author.

:: Sion Smith

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