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Chris High reviews the book'Does Anything Eat Wasps?'

Sleepy Head

Mark Billingham
Time-Warner Paperbacks
ISBN: 0-7515-3146-4
2002

Sleepy Head front cover of the book by Mark Billingham

Sleepy Head by
Mark Billingham

 

Debut novels are notoriously difficult creatures to work out. Readers are asked to relate to new characters on the turn of every page, whereas the writer struggles with what he or she wants to say, in the way that they want to say it. That they are labours of love from both sides is an understatement.

 

With Sleepy Head, however, Mark Billingham proved his intent to ascend the heights of Crime Fiction without pausing for breath and, in Detective Inspector Tom Thorne, the author created a hero with more of a past than a future that has continued to enthral through five further novels.

Alison Willetts is, in many ways, unfortunate to be alive having survived a deliberately induced stroke. She can hear, see and feel and is aware of everything that is going on around her, but nonetheless is incapable of communication or movement.

Initially, by leaving her alive, the police believe a killer has made their first mistake until Thorne realises that they've got it wrong; that the three women who have already died have done so in error. Murder is an acceptable risk to the perpetrator, but what Thorne tries to work out, is why?

From first line to last, Sleepy Head is a debut that leaves the reader craving more. Billingham has such a tight style of prose that it grips from the outset, whereas his dialogue is so natural, it's as though the reader is listening in on private conversations from an adjacent room.

The characters, especially the wonderfully worked Thorne and his aide, DC Dave Holland, breath life into the storyline when other novels might be seen to flag, while the action and necessary back story intertwine, without ever dulling the pace.
Overall this as good a debut as any writer - or reader - has a right to hope for and sets in motion the adventures of one of the most compelling creations in Crime fiction for many a year, before or since.
8/10

www.markbillingham.com

Order this book online - Linghams Booksellers


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“Writing gets me away for a while' from this world and into one where I, alone, can make or
break the rules as I see fit.” - Chris High 2003.
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