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Sleepyhead (Tom Thorne Novels) [Paperback]

Mark Billingham
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (148 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 Mar 2012 Tom Thorne Novels (Book 1)


Alison Willetts has survived a stroke, deliberately induced by a skilful manipulation of pressure points on the head and neck. She can see, hear and feel but she is completely unable to move or communicate. In leaving Alison Willetts alive, the police believe the killer's made his first mistake.


Then DI Tom Thorne discovers the horrifying truth: it isn't Alison who is the mistake, it's the three women already dead.


Thorne must find a killer whose agenda is disturbingly unique, and Alison, the one person who holds the key to the killer's identity, is unable to say anything . . .

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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Sphere (1 Mar 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 075154891X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0751548914
  • Product Dimensions: 2.8 x 12 x 18.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (148 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 6,401 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Mark Billingham is one of the UK's most acclaimed and popular crime writers. A former actor, television writer and stand-up comedian, his series of novels featuring D.I. Tom Thorne has twice won him the Crime Novel Of The Year Award as well as the Sherlock Award for Best British Detective and been nominated for seven CWA Daggers. His standalone thriller IN THE DARK was chosen as one of the twelve best books of the year by the Times and his debut novel, SLEEPYHEAD was chosen by the Sunday Times as one of the 100 books that had shaped the decade. Each of his novels has been a Sunday Times Top Ten bestseller.

A television series based on the Thorne novels was screened in Autumn 2010, starring David Morrissey as Tom Thorne and series based on the standalone thrillers IN THE DARK and RUSH OF BLOOD are currently in development with the BBC.

Product Description

Amazon Review

The art of inducing fear in a reader via the printed page is a speciality of only a few skilled craftsmen. Mark Billingham is such an author, and Sleepy Head is such a book. The blurb on the jacket warns that we are in for a disturbing experience and that is precisely what we get: "He doesn't want you alive. He doesn't want you dead. He wants you somewhere in between".

The killer who Billingham's protagonist Tom Thorne is up against is a particularly creepy specimen: he has savagely killed three victims but his fourth, although alive, is perhaps not so fortunate. She has undergone a deliberately induced stroke and although all her senses are intact, she is totally unable to move or communicate. This hideous condition, called Locked-in Syndrome is, however, quite possibly the killer's first miscalculation ... or is it? Soon the dogged Thorne (given to distrusting his own abilities) is playing a cat-and-mouse game with a psychopathic killer. And the brilliant and sadistic killer is just as interested in leading Thorne a merry dance as he is in fulfilling his degraded obsessions.

All characterisations here are spot-on, even the killer (although one wonders just how many more hyper-intelligent psychopaths readers will be prepared to take) while the British setting is handled with intelligence, the horrific set pieces with real élan:

His head moved up, through the hole and into bright white light. He blinked quickly to adjust and opened his eyes. Thorne's last thought, before his body turned ice cold and began to shake quietly, was that he'd been right to be afraid...
--Barry Forshaw --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


A terrifically stylish debut novel Independent on Sunday Extremely capable and unsettling Literary Review A cunning variation on the serial-murder theme Sunday Telegraph Mark Billingham is one of my favourite new authors. Highly recommended -- Harlan Coben

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mesmerising 14 Jan 2003
From the first page, I was hooked. This story revolves around a young woman who has "locked-in" syndrome ie she is a prisoner within her own body, having been attacked and suffering a stroke as a result. At first the police think it was a murder attempt gone wrong, but the truth is even more chilling -- the attacker meant to leave her like this and previous deaths were mistakes on his part. Is this girl the only one with any clues to the perpetrator? Now he has succeeded once, who will his next subject be? I won't reveal any more of the plot, but the writing is superb. The policeman has a great stock of one-liners; he reminded me of Inspector Rebus, and there is a nice injection of black hospital humour. The characters were true to life, nicely flawed, and as a British crime thriller, the reader does not have to contend with Americanisms and superhuman cops. A great read. I'm looking forward to reading Mark Billingham's next.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Don't let the bed-bugs bite.... 11 Oct 2003
Finally. A thriller I actually enjoyed!
Sleepyhead is a neat little book that sets a very plausable plot and doesn't get too OTT for the sake of it. Despite the blurb on the back, it's not a book that is going to keep you awake at night, but offers a few chills in just the right places.
Character-wise, the book also succeeds. Although Billingham is usually associated with stand-up comedy, Sleepyhead does not turn into a dizzy spoof of itself. Each character certainly makes the odd humorous observation, but no more than any human who finds themself in a stressful situation. The central character, D.I Tom Thorne is believable, although the old formulas of 'hard-boiled detective with a grudge/mysterious past' does crop up on occasion. This is toned down by development of other characters, such as Holland, Hendricks etc.
One thing that the book succeeds on in particular is the relationships between the characters involved. Unfortunately, however, because of this, the ending becomes either a tad predictable, or slightly confusing. I'd like to explain further my reasoning, but I may give something away.
Saying that though, I still enjoyed the book. As I mentioned, I'm not a huge fan of crime thrillers, but this book may be an indication that I may have been unlucky in my fiction selection in the past, and that the crime thriller genre is far from dead.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sleep well..... 22 Dec 2006
This is Mark Billingham's debut novel featuring the stout figured DI Tom Thorne, just turned 40 and on the trail of a psychopath who kills a number of women `by accident' until eventually he is successful in his most unusual objective : to leave them somewhere in between life and death. The murders are errors on his part while he perfects his technique. Early on we are presented with a prime suspect, or at least someone who Thorne is convinced is the killer, so this novel becomes less of a whodunit as much as a "did he or didn't he?" - and I for one was never completely sure about the answer until hundreds of pages later and the moment of revelation.

Despite the serial-killer storyline, Mark Billingham successfully manages to create a `novel' twist to the well-worn theme by making it clear that all of the murders were mistakes, at least in the mind of the perpetrator who has something of an obsession with Thorne and in addition to making direct (but anonymous) contact with the determined copper he seems to want Thorne to be the one who finally nabs him. Thorne has emotional scars of his own, dating back several years and which unknowing to him have served to shape his personality both as a detective and as a man. All is eventually revealed, and very disturbing it is. Thorne's something of a maverick, sometimes part of the team but often the cavalier, maybe he's on the verge of some kind of burned-out breakdown but just when you think he's going off the rails, he gets back on track again.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
The troubled cop as the lead character in a murder story has been used far too many times but when it is as well written as this book then I can forgive the author for using a cliche.
The language is surprisingly descriptive and evocative. It is used to good effect within the crime scenes and is describes emotions particularly well.
I found myself getting very frustrated with a few of the police characters surrounding the main man, although I'm sure that was the intention of the author.
This book is the first in a series of Tom Thorne stories and is a very good introduction. He has been in the police force for so time and has an interesting history which is gradually fed to the reader throughout the book. I came away wanting to know more about Tom which will encourage me to pick up some more of the other books sometime.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A weary plod 27 Jun 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I bought this book because I recalled seeing Mark Billingham's face pasted up on tube station walls a while back and I wanted to read the first novel by someone who apparently deserved this attention.

Well, it starts off OK. The detective on the case is the usual hackneyed weary type with a divorce and some kind of drink problem (eyes starting to close), who argues with his boss (stretch arms), feels sorry for a victim who's still alive and gets involved with her doctor (yawn) who just happens to have had a fling with the main suspect (Zzzzzzz), then eventually, with no clues finds the suspect who isn't who we/I thought through pure luck (flatline - beeeeeeeeeeeep).

This thing plods along with glacial vigour. We are constantly told that this Thorne guy is one of the best but we never find out why; he certainly doesn't show any Columbo-esque genius - he's stupid: Is it normal police practice to ring up a murder suspect to tell them that you are on your way to arrest them? Being a naive type, I would have thought doing that would give the suspect a chance to escape, but that's just the way my non-police brain works.

And perleeeze!! Finding one door that should be locked and isn't locked is just about getbyable, but three? And is it me, but I thought London had a good transport system with it's 1000's of taxis, 100's of buses and a tube and rail network that are the envy of the world, so why did the person who knew he was a suspect gladly give the 'tec a lift instead of pointing him towards a mode of public transport? Do fibres from the boot of a modern car really stick limpet-like to briefcases?
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Pleasantly surprised
This was the first book I'd read of Mark Billingham and not the usual type of book that I read but I was pleasantly surprised. Read more
Published 6 days ago by Judith Gully
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 13 days ago by Daryl Middleton
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Reluctant to put it down
Published 16 days ago by lizzyp
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Good story. Worth a look
Published 16 days ago by Mr Alan H Pattle
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Excellent really hooked on this author now !
Published 17 days ago by reading berkshire customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent storytelling.
Just when you think you know the perp...........!!! Will be definitely be buying the other Tom Thorne novels based on this one.
Published 19 days ago by Karen West
4.0 out of 5 stars but it was a good
l did work out the murderer way before the end, but it was a good read
Published 27 days ago by Gossamyst
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping
Not high literature but a good read and one which keeps you turning the pages in an attempt to find out whodunit!
Published 1 month ago by Gill
3.0 out of 5 stars Slow Start Then Starts To Move
This took me a while to get into. But worth a try.

Tom Thorne is a believable character along with the other police officers and medics who feature in this.
Published 1 month ago by Tigerclaw
2.0 out of 5 stars Not a page-turner
Decent enough plot, but it throws you in at the middle and doesn't fully connect the reader with the main character. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
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