Sleepyhead by Mark Billingham

imageSleepyhead is the first in the Tom Thorne series of books.  Written in 2001, it has been sitting on my Kindle since 2014.  When I first bought it, I picked it up quite quickly.  Then put it down again because all I could picture in my head was David Morrissey, who plays Thorne in the TV show.

Four years on, I didn’t do much better with that I have to say, which says something about the TV show’s impact on me I guess.  Thankfully, I couldn’t remember too much of the plot, which meant it was still a new story for me, well mostly because I remembered the basic premise.

In Sleepyhead, someone with medical training (maybe even a doctor) is attacking young women, pinching a particular nerve to cause a stroke.  He doesn’t want to kill them, though, but rather cause locked-in syndrome, where the women are completely aware of what is going on but can’t move, or speak, but are rather trapped in their own bodies.  

When the book opens, he has succeeded just once, with Alison, whose voice the reader hears throughout the book but no one else.  Locked-in syndrome sounds completely terrifying and I can’t think of many worse things a non-killing killer could do to a victim because it’s an ongoing torture.  Because he’s only “succeeded” once, with Alison, it takes a while for the police to catch on that there is a killer out there, creating a taskforce and putting Tom Thorne in charge.

Thorne, to me, is a typical detective.  He is divorced, drinks too much, won’t take orders and goes off on his own.  I am not sure if this was different back in 2001, but because I’m reading this now, it did feel like much of the same.  And, whilst there was a reason behind his general grumpiness, it wasn’t enough to push me over the edge into liking him, even if he did look like David Morrissey.

In fact, I found him quite annoying.  I wasn’t the only one – his team didn’t seem to like him much either.  I don’t blame them.  Because of this, I found it hard to get into the book and kept putting it down in favour of the TV (terrible, I know!).  At 432 pages, the book isn’t short by any means anyway, and my behaviour just made it feel longer.  I just couldn’t get into it fully though, no matter how much I wanted to.

Thorne was the main problem, but so was his focus on one suspect.  I got that, but given no one else on his team was with him, it would have been nice for them to have some other people in there are red herrings.  Instead, I got to read about Tom’s problems more.  And boy, does he have problems.

So, after my moaning, was there anything good?  Yes.  I really liked Alison, who was funny and sarcastic and, despite her circumstances, didn’t seem to feel sorry for herself at all.  I liked her doctor too, who became a bit of a love interest for Thorne.  And the story itself, it is a scary thought one pinch could do so much damage; plus, it was nice it wasn’t gory with people being sliced, diced etc.

But, all things considered, it wasn’t enough for me. I am glad I read it but I won’t be going back for more.  I will settle with my TV memories and be happy with that.

Emma x

About the book…

Detective Inspector Tom Thorne now knows that three murdered young women were a killer’s mistakes — and that Alison was his triumph. And unless Thorne can enter the mind of a brilliant madman — a frighteningly elusive fiend who enjoys toying with the police as much as he savors his sick obsession — Alison Willetts will not be the last victim consigned forever to a hideous waking hell.

Source: Purchased
Publisher: Avon books
Publication date: 2001
Number of pages: 423
Genre: Crime, Mystery, Police Procedural
Rating: 3 out of 5



  1. I can’t think of anything worse than the locked-in syndrome! I really hate that the cop chasing suspects is so horribly annoying, too. In fact, the book sounds like torture…but thanks for sharing.


  2. I read this back when it was new and had a similar reaction. I think I went on and read the next one, maybe even the third, but then gave up on the series, so I don’t think you’ll be missing much. However even after all these years I still remember the ‘locked-in’ stuff, so clearly he must have been effective in describing that…


    • The idea of being locked-in is the bit that is sticking with me. I even started reading up about how some people had come out the other side! I don’t think I’ll be missing anything either. It just hasn’t lit me on fire.


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