Sleepyhead // by Mark Billingham


//published 2001//

This is the first installment of Billingham’s Tom Thorne series, and also the first of Billingham’s books I’ve had the pleasure to read.  I quite enjoyed this intense, focused thriller – mostly because I really liked Thorne himself.

This series was brought to my attention by reviews of Time of Death, Billingham’s most recent Tom Thorne novel.  The reviews, of course, were from three of my favorite mystery-book-reviewing blogs:  Reading, Writing & Riesling, FictionFan, and Cleopatra Loves Books.  Two out of three recommended Time of Death, but, being myself, I can’t just jump into the middle of a series.  I like to read series from beginning to end.  In some ways, I think of series as one big, long book, and just like I wouldn’t jump into a book at chapter five, I can’t plunge into the middle of a series, either.  It’s a weakness, I admit.

Anyway, this means that I began with Thorne’s first appearance, and I am quite glad that I did.  Sleepyhead was fabulously creepy, and while there was sometimes a bit too much gruesome for me – there is a scene where we are actually with the murderer while he kills someone – it was still overall a very solid read, one that had me reading as fast as I possibly could.

While Thorne is an alcoholic, he overall avoids the dreadful maverick gimmick, which I greatly appreciated.  I really liked his assistant, Holland, who developed throughout and could definitely become a better character in later books.  Thorne’s love interest was intelligent and engaging in her own right, not a mere puppet, which was also nice.  While the book definitely had some weakness a few minor plot holes, Billingham managed to keep the tension ratcheted tightly enough that I was willing to let the small inconsistencies slide in favor of racing to the finish.

This has been a pretty busy month, which means a lot of fluff reading, so I haven’t had a chance to delve into the second book, Scaredy Cat, yet, but am definitely looking forward to the experience.