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Synopsis: It’s rare for a young woman to die from a stroke and when three such deaths occur in short order it starts to look like an epidemic. Then a sharp pathologist notices traces of benzodiazepine in one of the victim’s blood samples and just traceable damage to the ligaments in her neck, and their cause of death is changed from ‘natural’ to murder. The police aren’t making much progress in their hunt for the killer until he appears to make a mistake: Alison Willetts is found alive and D.I. Tom Thorne believes the murderer has made a mistake, which ought to allow them to get on his tracks. But it was the others who were his mistakes: he doesn’t want to take life, he just wants to put people into a state where they cannot move, cannot talk, cannot do anything but think. When Thorne, helped by the neurologist looking after Alison, starts to realise what he is up against he knows the case is not going to be solved by normal methods – before he can find out who did it he has to understand why he’s doing it.
My Review: Mmmm, I feel very torn with this review and I will tell you why. Having never read any of the Thorne series of books by Mark Billingham, I decided to make a marathon catch up session and start with his debut novel Sleepyhead (released in 2001). The synopsis sounded pretty amazing and I started the book with anticipation. The reason I say I am torn is because I have really conflicting emotions. The story, writing and plot was flipping amazing and it took me no time to devour the book. On the other hand I am still undecided about how I feel about Tom Thorne.
As this is a debut, I know it takes time but for some reason I just didn’t get to grips with him that much. He is a D.I who takes his job seriously and in this current book it seems we are getting to know Thorne and the demons that he is battling (due to an earlier case). When Alison Willetts is found alive, following three murders, Tom finally feels like this is the break they needed. Sadly, and one of the most interesting elements of this book, is that although Alison lived, she has been left with ‘locked-in syndrome’. Alison knows exactly what is going on and is fully functional, she just can’t communicate. This in itself made a refreshing change to read about as it’s something that is scary and also something I’ve not read about before.
The other thing I loved about this was that I spent literally the whole book questioning everything. Were my suspicions right? Was Throne wrong? Was he losing his marbles? Who else is shady? Yep, pretty much the standard thought process for many I would imagine. That alone is always a bonus as it feels like you are as in the dark as the D.I. I wouldn’t say this book was particularly gruesome, but there is an element of ‘fear’ about it. You know that shiver down your back type of fear you get? Yep, that one! Overall for the first in the series and his debut, it was a corker. The fact that I am 13 years behind everybody else means I have some serious catching up to do, and I have to say I’m rather looking forward to it!