Home » Book Review » Sleepyhead // by Mark Billingham

Sleepyhead // by Mark Billingham

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//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.

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11 thoughts on “Sleepyhead // by Mark Billingham

  1. Like Cleo, I read the first couple and then lost touch with the series till the most recent one. From memory, I enjoyed the earlier ones more, but that might be as much to do with me as the books.

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    • I was just telling Carol that I started to read the 2nd Thorne book but couldn’t finish it… my stomach just couldn’t handle the gruesomeness!! I picked up some Christie instead and am on the hunt for a ‘cozier’ mystery series! Sorry to leave Thorne behind as I did like him as a protagonist, but…too much for me!!!

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  2. I am so pleased I am on your list of favourite mystery bloggers – thank you and what great company I have :) I too started with this book by Mark Billingham – and I read and enjoyed the next few in the series though I too found them rather gruesome in parts, the superb writing and narrative carried me through the gruesome parts. The last couple of books I have read by this author are a little different to the first few – for one, the protagonist has aged (which is quite refreshing in a series) the narratives and writing however are still superb – in my opinion. I hope you continue to enjoy the series.

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    • I have to admit that I was unable to make it through the 2nd Thorne book! While I really, really liked Thorne as a protagonist, the second book was all about a horrifically disturbed man who manipulated another fellow (rather simple in understanding) into committing brutal crimes. It was way off the top of my gruesome-handling chart! (I trend towards the cozy end of mysteries as a general rule.) I was sorry to not pursue the series as I liked the writing and the characters, but I just couldn’t deal with the descriptions of childhood cruelty and brutality. Sometimes I can just skim over those bits, but not this time around!!! I’ve kicked back over to Agatha Christie for a spell, lol

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